Bought milk? Consumers urged to file claims in milk price-fixing, cow killing settlement

- If you've purchased milk or fresh milk products, such as yogurt, cream cheese, and half-and-half, you may have as much as $65 coming to you as part of a class action lawsuit involving surprising allegations that half a million cows were slaughtered to illegally inflate milk prices.

Lawyers from the Bay Area office of class action law firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, filed the case in federal court in San Francisco in 2011.

It was filed on behalf of American dairy consumers and settled this past September for $52 million.

The nonprofit animal welfare group, Compassion Over Killing, began the initial research that identified potential price-fixing in the industry. 

The claims were against dairy lobbying group National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and industry cooperatives Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’ Lakes, DairyLea Cooperative and Agrimark.

It alleged that a trade group led by the NMPF oversaw a “herd retirement program” from 2003 to 2010 and that as part of the program, cooperatives bought out entire herds of cattle and sent them for early slaughter-- all in an effort to illegally limit the supply of raw milk and thus drive up prices.

“The biggest dairy producers in the country, responsible for almost 70 percent of the nation’s milk, conspired together in a classic price-fixing scheme, forcing higher prices for a basic food item onto honest consumers and families,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman.

“We’re pleased that this settlement will return some of what consumers lost due to this massive fraud perpetrated for ill-gotten gains,” Berman said. 

The defendants denied the allegations and said they agreed to settle the class action lawsuit because it was "the most sensible and responsible course of action."
 
In a statement, Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO said, “It is important to note that the court has found no antitrust violation and CWT makes no admission of wrongdoing in this settlement.”
 
In addition to California, consumers in 14 other states and the District of Columbia are entitled to a portion of the $52 million settlement which covers milk products that were purchased from 2003 to the present.
 
Attorneys say no proof of purchase is needed to be reimbursed. They say the claim process is easy and takes only a few minutes.
 
Consumers can submit a claim by going to www.boughtmilk.com.
 
The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31, 2017.

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