Court Rules in Favour of Broiler Growers03 October 2011
ARKANSAS, US - A court has awarded 91 broiler growers for Pilgrim's Pride almost $26 million.
A landmark judgment awarded to Arkansas and Louisiana poultry growers may pave the road for other growers to win their lawsuits against one of the nation's largest chicken producers, reports KATV.
A federal judge has ordered Pilgrim's Pride to pay nearly $26 million to 91 growers in the El Dorado area of Arkansas.
It was 2010 when the chicken growers told KATV that they had their lives devastated when Pilgrim's Pride idled its plant in El Dorado. With no income and mounting debt many of them said they faced foreclosure, bankruptcy and emotional distress.
On Friday (30 September), after a two-year legal battle, a federal judge ruled in the growers favour finding that the corporation's decision to idle its El Dorado plant was "motivated by a desire to manipulate the price of chicken", thereby violating an anti-trust law.
Mark Brodeur, the Plaintiffs' Lead Counsel, said: "It's a first in that I believe this is the largest verdict for a group of poultry growers against a poultry company."
Magistrate Judge Charles Everingham IV of the Eastern District of Texas Marshall Division ordered Pilgrim's to pay about $25.8 million with individual growers set to receive between $9,000 to nearly $900,000.
Mr Brodeur said: "These El Dorado growers are very good people, very strong minded people who work very hard on their farms and invested a lot of money anywhere from $500,000 to a million dollars typically is invested in a single farm and so it's a good pay day for those people."
But that pay-day may not come anytime soon. Pilgrim's Pride has 30 days to file a notice of appeal, and the appeal process could then take more than a year.
Still, the Plaintiffs' attorney is confident the growers will prevail.
Mr Brodeur continued: "I think it sends the message that no company is so powerful or so large that it has the right to try to affect a commodity market such as chicken."
The growers still hope Pilgrim's Pride will either sell its idled El Dorado plant or re-open it.
KATV was unable to get in touch with anyone from Pilgrim's Pride over the weekend but last November, a spokesman said the corporation planned to re-open two idled facilities by 2012 but had not decided which ones.
Other litigation against Pilgrim's is pending and involves Arkansas chicken growers in Batesville, DeQueen, Hope and Lewisville. Those cases are expected to go to trial.