Suit involving Pacific Seafood re-filed

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
August 30, 2010

One of the three claims included in a class-action lawsuit accusing Pacific Seafood Group and its owner, Frank Dulcich, of violating federal antitrust laws has been withdrawn.

Originally filed in U.S. District Court in Medford, Ore., in late June, the suit comprised three claims — one involving conspiracy to restrain trade and two involving monopolization of the West Coast's four most valuable seafood markets.

The suit re-filed last week doesn't include the conspiracy claim. The plaintiffs, father-and-son fishermen Lloyd and Todd Whaley of Brookings, Ore., accused the Clackamas, Ore., seafood supplier of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by fixing ex-vessel prices of Dungeness crab, coldwater shrimp, groundfish and whiting.

According to a source with knowledge of the case, the plaintiffs may have been "overzealous" in their original suit. "It certainly raises questions about the lawsuit when the defendant has yet to even respond to the accusations and the plaintiffs have already begun withdrawing them," he said.

The re-filed suit does include the two claims of monopolization. The plaintiffs seek up to USD 520 million (EUR 410 million) in damages and ask that Pacific Seafood be required to divest enough West Coast processing plants to reduce the company's market share to less than 30 percent.

Attorney Michael Haglund of Haglund Kelley Horngren Jones & Wilder in Portland, Ore., who represents the plaintiffs, told SeafoodSource on Monday that the re-filing doesn't affect the validity of the case, adding that it's common for a case to be re-filed when additional information is discovered. He said the suit was re-filed after he learned that Dulcich owns Pacific Seafood outright, not just a majority of the company.

"You can't conspire with yourself," said Haglund, citing federal antitrust laws. "We didn't know the full nature of the organization" at the time of the original filing.

A trial is set for February 2012, he said. Pacific Seafood has retained Mayer Brown of Chicago, one of the nation's largest law firms, to represent the company, according to Haglund.

When the suit was initially filed two months ago, Pacific Seafood called it baseless. "The claims filed against Pacific Seafood are completely without merit," said Craig Urness, the company's general counsel. "This lawsuit includes gross misrepresentations and we plan to aggressively defend against the allegations."

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