Peter Carstensen spoke recently to Capital Press about the class-action lawsuits filed against potato growers. The six lawsuits, which have been consolidated and are being heard in U.S. District Court in Pocatello, Idaho, allege the defendants engaged in cartel-like behavior to illegally restrict supply and fix the price of potatoes.
The lawsuits theoretically involve high stakes because they were filed on behalf of everyone who has purchased potatoes from the defendants since 2006 and ask they be awarded triple their damages. Defendants include Dole Food Co., General Mills Inc., major producers such as Wada Farms, and potato co-ops.
Carstensen is familiar with the suits and said that other ag co-ops have lost similar cases because they overestimated the scope of immunity offer by the Capper-Volstead Act of 1922, which provides limited antitrust exemptions to associations of producers.
At issue is whether the alleged conspiracy involves non-producers such as shippers and packers. Carstensen said it's true that if it can be proved non-farmers were part of it, "immunity under Capper-Volstead falls away immediately."
However, he said, the lawsuit he read was very sparse on supporting evidence.
"The case I read really didn't have a lot of third-party [evidence]," he said. "I was surprised at that; I was expecting to see more."
He also suggested that the participants could lose immunity if they were vertically integrated and so acted only to set prices for otherwise independent sales, but he said this theory is controversial.
To read the original Capital Press article, click here.
Submitted by UW Law News on July 1, 2011
This article appears in the categories: In the Media