Dean Foods antitrust case to return to court

Dean Foods antitrust case to return to court

A court of appeals has reinstated antitrust proceedings being brought against Dean Foods by a consortium of retailers, overturning an earlier ruling that had dismissed the case.

The retailers, led by Food Lion, argued Dean Foods conspired with National Dairy Holdings to restrict competition for bottled milk sales in the south eastern US.

National Dairy Holdings was created when Dean Foods sold off certain assets to secure competition approval for its 2001 merger with Suiza Foods Corp. The class action alleged the two groups entered into a conspiracy not to compete in states in the south east of the country.

In an initial ruling, a Tennessee district court found the retailers could not establish proof of their injuries or geographic market, even though they had successfully established the two firms had formed a conspiracy.

"The district court found enough evidence of a conspiracy," the high court noted. "The district court's opinion is reversed, and this case is remanded for further proceedings," it concluded.

In its judgement, the court remanded the case to the Eastern District of Tennessee.

A spokesperson for Dean Foods told just-food the firm was "disappointed" at the ruling.

"The trial court had dismissed the action in its entirety, ordered that the plaintiffs recover nothing, and ordered that Dean Foods and the other defendants recover costs from the plaintiffs. We remain confident that we have operated lawfully and fairly at all times in the south east," the company said.