Dairy Farmers and Class Members living in Federal Orders 5 & 7 have begun receiving Class Notices and Opt-Out Notices in regards to the DFA Recertification Subclass in the historic Class Action Southeast Milk Litigation.
In layman’s terms, DFA rank-and-file members in Federal Orders 5 & 7 are now eligible to receive damages – should any come via settlement, injunctive relief, or award by a jury – from their own co-op. These Class members will also have to meet certain standards specfied by the Court in a Class definition.
This is in accordance with the Court’s ruling on June 1st, 2012 following a series of motions and responses by attorneys for dairy farmer plaintiffs and defendant attorneys for DFA corporate businesses – Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.; Mid-Am Capital, LLC; Dairy Marketing Services, LLC; National Dairy Holdings, LP; and an individual, Gary Hanman, former CEO of DFA. This series of litigation activity was completed with a Hearing for Oral Arguments for Recertification on April 17th, followed by entry of the Judge’s ruling six weeks later.
Complete information, in a question and answer format, can be found by clicking this link: http://www.southeastdairyclass.com/PDFs/NotificationofCertificationofDFASubclass.pdf
The Court’s reason for the recertification can be summed up in one sentence found in the Order: “Plaintiffs have offered substantial proof that the alleged conspiracy has injured all members of the independent farmer subclass and the DFA farmer subclass.”
The Opt-Out option should be taken only if a Class Member/Claimant does not wish to receive any future settlement monies, or monies awarded at trial should a jury find actions of the DFA-related businesses did indeed harm the Southeast dairy community, and to what degree (signaled by the amount of dollar rewards).
Needless to say, DFA filed a petition to appeal that ruling with the Sixth Circuit. Due to that action, the trial scheduled for July 10th has been continued to November 6th (Election Day). Should the appeals court deny the petition, the Class stands and trial proceeds with the entire class intact. Litigation will proceed with Independent Farmers as plaintiffs irregardless of the decision of the Appeals court concerning DFA members.
More information about the entire Class Action is publicly available at the official Class Website, www.southeastdairyclass.com.
This DFA recertification segment of the litigation follows a previous $145 Million Settlement by defendants Dean Foods, Southern Marketing Agency, and James Baird. The settlement also included some forms of injunctive relief. This Settlement received Final Approval from the Court on Friday, June 15th.
Audits of claims forms are being conducted now by Rust Consulting. Those claims forms were submitted during March and April to Rust. It will likely be later this fall before payments to farmers begin.
Legal events, although generally considered unpleasant or controversial, are a part of the Worldwide Milkshed. Sometimes they are the only course of action left for a farmer to get answers about events and companies whose ultimate responsibility should be to ‘protect the farmer’s income.’ With the farmer’s income protected, a consumer will have more peace-of-mind about domestic food security, because farmland will have more certainty about financial sustainability.
Lawsuits or judgments can serve to change the course of the way milk is priced to the farmer, or hold accountable businesses and individuals in their practices that ultimately affect the sustainability of the farmer – the person where a Milkshed begins.