Class Action Can Proceed Against Bumble Bee, StarKist & Chicken Of The Sea On Behalf Of Families & Individuals Cheated By Industry Wide Price Fixing
New York, NY – March 27, 2017 – Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP is pleased to announce that the class actions can proceed against Bumble Bee and StarKist and Chicken of the Sea for their alleged price fixing and collusion that cheated families and individuals. This case has been brought on behalf of families and individuals who purchased canned seafood from these major manufacturers at retail outlets and grocery stores. The civil case parallels a criminal probe that has already netted two felony convictions, from Bumble Bee personnel who have agreed to cooperate with the Government. There are public reports that one of the companies has sought leniency from the government, raising the possibility that prosecutors have the assistance of insiders from two of the three brands in the cartel.
The latest decision concerned the claims under the laws of twenty-nine states raised by consumers who purchased canned tuna and other packaged seafoods, as well as claims raised by commercial food preparers. Twenty-eight of the twenty-nine claims will now move forward. The Order was entered by Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California in In re: Packaged Seafood Products Antitrust Litigation, No. 15-MD-2670 JLS (MDD) (S.D. Cal.).
In addition to the points below, the decision appears to be the most complete District Court decision on the application of multiple states’ law to price fixing and other antitrust violations in federal courts. This ruling will become become increasingly important to protecting consumers from cartel activity.
The Court’s Order: (1) sustained claims by certain purchasers of packaged seafood against foreign parents of the three defendant brands; (2) granted leave to replead the consumers’ attempt to use California law for all consumers in the U.S.; (3) allowed claims by consumers under the laws of twenty-eight states (of the twenty-nine brought by consumers) under either antitrust or consumer protection laws, or both; and (4) set a time of thirty days for Plaintiffs to file a new amended complaint. The Order is a significant win for Plaintiffs. Among other things, it stands as perhaps the most complete District Court decision on the application of multiple states’ law to price fixing and other antitrust violations in federal courts, a kind of case that has become increasingly important to protecting consumers from cartel activity.
Betsy C. Manifold and Thomas Burt were the two Wolf Haldenstein partners who provided the successful oral argument before Judge Sammartino. Ms. Manifold said “The Court’s decision will now allow those families and individuals who for years have been cheated by Bumble Bee, StarKist and Chicken of the Sea to finally proceed against the price fixers. Wolf Haldenstein is thankful for the Court’s ruling to allow the injured parties to see their day in court.”
Thomas Burt, added “For years consumer’s have been unwittingly cheated just by the simple act of purchasing a can of tuna fish at their local food store. The Court’s opinion has now provided a pathway forward for consumers on a state by state basis by providing guidance to any judge considering state claims in this area.”
Founded in 1888, Wolf Haldenstein has extensive experience in the prosecution of complex class actions in state and federal trial and appellate courts across the country. The firm’s attorneys have expertise in various practice areas, including federal civil rights litigation. Wolf Haldenstein’s reputation and expertise in class litigation has been repeatedly recognized by the courts, which have appointed it to major positions in complex multi-district and consolidated litigations.