Dean Foods settles milk price lawsuit

UPDATED with info on other defendants, trial date.

Dairy farmers in Tennessee and other southeastern states scored a $140 million victory today when Dean Foods announced it has agreed to pay that amount to settle a class-action lawsuit.

The settlement must be approved by  U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. The farmers’ case continues against other defendants who have not settled. The trial is set to begin Aug. 16, according to a statement by Robert G. Abrams of Baker Hostetler, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The money will be paid “into a fund that will be available for distribution to dairy farmer class members in a number of Southeastern states. Dean Foods will make an initial payment of $60 million upon preliminary approval of the agreement by the Court, and will make subsequent payments of $20 million in each of the following four years on the anniversary of the final approval date,” the company said in a press release.

The farmers had alleged that Dean Foods, a major dairy processor, kept milk prices articificially low.

Abrams called the settlement”a very positive and successful resolution.”

“We feel the settlement amount of $140 million speaks to Dean’s past activities in the southeast and the impact those activities had on the dairy farmers. Significantly, in addition, the settlement also reflects action that Dean has taken toward restoring a more competitive market for southeast dairy producers.”

Other defendents in the case include,  Dairy Farmers of America, Dairy Marketing Services, Southern Marketing Agency and National Dairy Holdings  

This isn’t the first class-action suit Dean has settled. Late last year, the company paid $30M to settle a suit brought by farmers in the northeast.

Dean Foods website

TheStreet report

Reuters report

Northeast settlement