Source: Agri Voice Enterprises
The Southeast Milk Litigation involves a flurry of activity this month in two different phases of the historic Class-Action Antitrust/Price-Fixing Lawsuit affecting the dairy farming industry in Federal Milk Marketing Orders 5 (Appalachian Order) and 7 (Southeast Order).
This litigation, which most recently involved an unprecedented $145 million monetary settlement to producers from Dean Foods and Southern Marketing Agency, continues to unfold in Federal Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, in Greeneville, TN.
Dean Foods is the parent company of prominent Southeast consumer brands such as Mayfield, Purity, Barber’s, Trauth, Pet, Dean, Shenandoah’s Pride, and Broughton.
The settlement may provide an individual farmer with an ‘average of $13,000’ according to a court-monitored website: www.southeastdairyclass.com, based on 7,000 claimants. That figure could vary widely dependent on two major factors: a.) the final number of claimants submitting claims forms by the May 1st deadline, and 2.) the total number of milk pounds reported for the Class timeframe, Jan. 1, 2001 to present.
A majority of eligible farmers have received official claims forms from Rust Consulting, the claims administrator, in the mail. If for any reason someone who produced milk in that time period did not receive a claim form, they can be obtained by clicking the “Claim Form” tab at www.southeastdairyclass.com, by contacting the appropriate Settlement Subclass attorneys, or the Claims administrator. Their contact information is also at the website.
Highlights of upcoming dates in the action include, but may not be limited to the following:
Mid-March–April 24th: Calculation of Milk Pounds and Completion of Claims forms by Eligible Claimants/Present & Past Dairy Farmers. Producers are using a variety of methods to determine total pounds for the Class-Action period of January 1, 2001 until present. Some producers have indicated they will document the pounds of milk they state on the claims form by including copies of the materials used for calculations with the claims form.
April 17th, 9:00 a.m. (Tues): HEARING, Open Court, on Motion by DFA Settlement Subclass Attorneys to reinstate DFA members into Litigation Subclass. Should this motion be granted, rank-and-file DFA membership will become eligible for any potential damages enacted by either settlement or a positive jury verdict.
April 17th- 24th: Suggested mailing dates for Claims Forms.
Methods: Some form of 'signature required' mail or delivery suggested – ‘certified mail’ or ‘priority mail with signature’ are examples. There is a sizable amount of monies at stake, and this extra step to ensure a claims form is delivered to meet filing deadlines is a small investment. A claimant should allow ample time from their own post office and mail claims forms accordingly in order for the claims forms to be received at the offices of Rust Consulting. I
A claimant should not plan on waiting until the last minute and should not rely on using typical overnight delivery service such as FedEx or UPS Next Day Air. A physical address required by such services is not provided on the official court documents – only the Post Office Box is included in the Court’s order. However, an announcement may come if overnight deliveries will be accepted, but until notified, plan on using the PO Box and allow plenty of mail time.
Mailing Address for Claims Administrator:
SE Dairy Farm Class; c/o Rust Consulting, PO Box 2392; Faribault, MN 55021-9092, Toll-free Telephone: 1-800-874-2297 Email: info@SoutheastDairyClass.com
May 1st (Tues): CLAIMS FORMS must be RECEIVED by Claims Administrator. It is a PRODUCER's responsibility to meet this deadline, and to see that materials are compiled, filled out correctly, and mailed in time to meet this deadline.
May 1st (Tues): Deadline to file a notice that a producer wishes to speak at the Fairness Hearing regarding the Dean/SMA settlement. Notice may be filed with these parties: The Court, and these attorneys: Independent Subclass Counsel, DFA Settlement Subclass Attorney, Dean Foods Attorney, SMA Attorney, Jim Baird’s Attorney. Contact information for all is found at www.southeastdairyclass.com, click "Notice of Settlement of Class Action Claims," scroll to page 7 of that document. Document was also included in packets mailed to producers by Rust Consulting earlier this spring.
May 15th (Tues): Fairness Hearing, Open Court. Farmers and producers have the opportunity to comment on the Dean Foods/SMA settlement and related issues. Some producers have already indicated they will speak on this matter. Comments will be placed in the official court record.
General Reference Website: www.southeastdairyclass.com
Contact Information: (These attorneys are court-approved and provided at no cost to individual farmers.)
Independent Subclass Attorney: Robert G. Abrams; Baker & Hostetler, LLP; 1050 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.; Washington, DC 20036; Phone: 202-861-1500. DFA Settlement Subclass Attorney: Gary E. Brewer; BREWER & TERRY, P.C.; 1702 W. Andrew Johnson Hwy.; Morristown, TN 37814; Phone: (423) 587-2730