United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
IN RE PROCESSED EGG PRODUCTS ANTITRUST LITIGATION THIS DOCUMENT APPLIES TO: ALL DIRECT PURCHASER ACTIONS MULTIDISTRICT LITIGATION
E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge.
In preparation for the impending trial with the Direct
Purchaser Class Plaintiffs and the remaining defendants, the
parties altogether filed 21 motions in limine. The
Court has ruled on 15 of those motions. This memorandum
opinion addresses three of the remaining motions.
first motion (Doc. No. 1589) poses the plaintiffs'
argument to bar the defendants' reliance on legal
theories that were excluded in the course of the summary
judgment rulings. Although the defendants make several novel
arguments in an attempt to re-visit the summary judgment
rulings, the Court finds that these arguments were waived and
do not belong in the trial going forward.
plaintiffs' second motion (Doc. No. 1592) seeks to
preclude the defendants from arguing that their participation
in the alleged price-fixing agreement was limited, claiming
such arguments are irrelevant under bedrock conspiracy law.
Although limited conspiracy participation is irrelevant to
determine liability for conspiratorial acts, it is relevant
here insofar as it can show whether the parties ever joined
the conspiracy in the first place, or perhaps, whether (and
when) someone has withdrawn from a conspiracy. Therefore, the
Court finds such information, and appropriate arguments based
on such information, admissible and tenable.
the third motion (Doc. No. 1597) seeks to preclude Dr.
Rausser, the plaintiffs' expert economist, from
discussing animal welfare standards, arguing that such
standards fall outside his area of expertise. Such
information is admissible, but only as limited by Federal
Rule of Evidence 703. Dr. Rausser may discuss animal welfare
standards, but only in the context of having arguably
considered them to reach his conclusions as an economist. He
may not discuss such standards as if he were an animal
welfare expert. This motion is therefore denied, but the
plaintiffs are reminded of the strictures of Federal Rule of
defendants in this case are accused of a multi-year,
multi-faceted price-fixing scheme to decrease the supply of
eggs and drive up prices. The Direct Purchaser Class
Plaintiffs (DPPs) allege that beginning in the early 2000s,
the defendants conspired to reduce the domestic supply of
shell eggs (thereby increasing egg prices) under the auspices
of two industry groups, the United Egg Producers (UEP) and
the United States Egg Marketers.
centerpiece of the scheme is the UEP Animal Care Certified
Program. Under the Certified Program, the UEP issued
certifications to producers if those producers complied with
certain animal husbandry guidelines adopted by the UEP.
According to the plaintiffs, these guidelines depressed egg
supply by, among other things, establishing a minimum cage
space allowance per bird in the defendants' facilities,
which reduced flock size.
Motion to Exclude Testimony of Belief of Immunity under
Capper-Volstead or Similar Laws
engaged in the production of agricultural products” are
immune from antitrust liability. 7 U.S.C. § 291. By
definition then, an agricultural cooperative that includes
non-producers is not immune under Capper-Volstead,
and is subject to liability under the Sherman Act. In
September 2016, the Court ruled that the UEP could not claim
Capper-Volstead protection because it contained one
non-producer: Sauder. The presence of Sauder “prevents
the cooperative from claiming Capper-Volstead
protection.” In re: Processed Egg Products
Antitrust Litig., 2016 WL 4922706 at *6 (E.D. Pa. Sep.
13, 2016). The Court's ruling in this regard rested on
this one issue.
DPPs seek to preclude any testimony regarding immunity under
the Capper-Volstead Act as irrelevant in the wake of the
summary judgment ruling. The defendants concede that they
will not argue against anything antithetical to the summary
judgment ruling,  but argue that pre-2004 Capper-Volstead
protection is an open issue for trial. The defendants now
point to the fact that Sauder did not join the UEP until
2004, and Sauder's participation in the UEP was the sole
reason for granting summary judgment on this issue. In
essence then, this motion in limine asks the Court
to determine if pre-2004 Capper-Volstead protection is still
an open question for trial. The Court holds that it is not.
The defendants' argument, although innovative, was waived
at summary judgment.
briefing on the summary judgment motion, the DPPs asked the
Court to grant summary judgment on any affirmative defense
the defendants may bring claiming Capper- Volstead
protection. Despite this temporal argument being available,
the defendants only argued that “Sauder simply does not
fit” into the category of non-producers. Opp. to
Affirmative Defenses Summary Judgment at 31 (Doc. No. 1259).
That summary judgment argument relied exclusively on the
functional aspects of Sauder's business, arguing that
Sauder had “intimate involvement in the egg production
argument here (which was available at summary judgment) is
wholly different. The defendants focus here on the
relationship between Sauder and the UEP, arguing
that Capper-Volstead immunity hinges on the time when Sauder
officially joined the UEP, regardless of its producer or
non-producer status. At the summary judgment stage, no party
discussed the relationship (temporally or otherwise) between
Sauder and the UEP as a basis for Capper-Volstead immunity.
Even after the Court's grant of summary judgment, the
defendants did not move the Court to reconsider or clarify
its ruling. Therefore, the defendants cannot raise this novel
argument now as an end-run around the summary judgment
deadline. The Court declines to reconsider its ruling at