A grocery supplier's federal lawsuit filed in Kansas alleging United Potato Growers of America and some cooperative members artificially inflated prices through cartel-like efforts to limit supply has been moved to Idaho and combined with another similar class-action lawsuit.
Wyandotte County, Kan.,-based Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc., which supplies more than 2,000 grocery stores, filed its suit on April 17. Allegations in the complaint were similar to the class-action case filed in Pocatello, Idaho, federal court by the Jamestown, N.Y., wholesale potato buyer Brigotta's Farmland Produce and Garden Center.
The combined case is scheduled for a telephonic status conference with attorneys at the end of this month.
"There's no need for a judge in Kansas to get deep into the potato discovery. There's a judge in Idaho who's already on top of that," said Peter Carstensen, a University of Wisconsin law professor and antitrust expert.
Carstensen said combining the cases doesn't preclude Associated Wholesale Grocers from testing a Kansas state law that could significantly increase damages. The grocery supplier has alleged the defendants violated the Kansas Restraint of Trade Act, opening the door to indirect purchases made with the alleged conspirators through an intermediary, which aren't eligible under federal law.
The state law also awards full repayment of commodities sold under an illegal price, rather than actual damages under federal law. The plaintiffs have asked the federal court to assume jurisdiction over the alleged state law violation because the case involves residents in several states and more than $75,000 in alleged actual damages.
SOURCE: John O'Connell, Capital Press