May 1 is deadline for Southeast Milk lawsuit settlement claim formsPrint
Southeast U.S. dairy farmers have until May 1 to complete claim forms to be eligible to receive portions of the financial settlement agreement with Dean Foods and Southern Marketing Agency (SMA) in the "Southeast Milk” lawsuit. Claim procedures are posted on a court-approved website, www.southeastdairyclass.com.
The $145 million settlement will be proportionately distributed to farmer plaintiffs, less the attorney fees and legal costs, to eligible producers who produced and sold Grade A milk within federal milk marketing orders #5 (Appalachian) and #7 (Southeast) since Jan. 1, 2001.
The official claims administrator is Rust Consulting, whose name is on the court-authorized envelope sent to farmers. The mailing address is: SE Dairy Farm Class; c/o Rust Consulting, PO Box 2392; Faribault, MN 55021-9092. For additional information, producers may contact the firm via phone: 800-874-2297; or e-mail: info@SoutheastDairyClass.com.
A majority of eligible farmers should have already received official claims forms via mail from Rust Consulting. For producers who believe they are eligible to receive portions of the claim, but have not received a claim form, visit www.southeastdairyclass.com and click on “Claim Form.”
Preliminary calculations estimate the “average” individual settlement could be about $13,000, based on 7,000 claimants. That figure could vary widely dependent on two factors: 1) the final number of claimants submitting claims forms by the deadline; and 2) the total number of milk pounds reported.
Due to the potential size of claims, producers are urged to use “certified mail” or “priority mail with signature” when submitting claim forms. They should not plan on waiting until the last minute.
Since the current court documents only list a Post Office Box, producers should not use typical overnight delivery service such as FedEx or UPS Next Day Air. Those services require a physical address for delivery, which is not provided in the court documents. An announcement may come if overnight deliveries will be accepted, but until notified, producers should plan on using the P.O. Box and allow plenty of time for mail delivery.
As DairyProfit Weekly and Julia Walker, AgriVoice, who has followed the four-and-one-half year lawsuit, have reported previously, two firms have been officially recognized by the U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tenn., as farmer counsel/legal representatives to assist dairy producers with claim forms. Dairy farmers submitting claims through those firms will not be required to individually pay either of these attorneys, nor relinquish some of the settlement for legal services.
• Baker & Hostetler, the counsel for the independent subclass. Address: Robert G. Abrams; Baker & Hostetler, LLP, 1050 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20036; Phone: 202-861-1500.
• Brewer & Terry, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) settlement subclass attorney. Address: Gary E. Brewer; Brewer & Terry, P.C.; 1702 W. Andrew Johnson Hwy., Morristown, TN 37814; Phone: 423-587-2730
There are other law firms who will help – for compensation. DairyProfit Weekly was contacted by Settlement Recovery Group LLC, (www.srgllc.com/cases/milk/index.htm), offering to assist eligible dairy producers with claim forms. SRG works on a contingency basis, completing the paperwork and taking a portion of the settlement.
Other dates, deadlines
Two other dates are approaching related to the Dean/SMA settlement.
• May 1: Deadline to file a notice that a producer wishes to speak at a “Fairness Hearing” regarding the settlement. See www.southeastdairyclass.com.
• May 15: The “Fairness Hearing,” held in the U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tenn., giving producers the opportunity to comment on the settlement and related issues. Comments will be placed in the official court record.
In a separate segment of the "Southeast Milk” lawsuit, a hearing will be held April 17, to consider a motion to reinstate members of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) into a litigation subclass. DFA is a remaining defendant in the case. Should this motion be granted, DFA members in the area affected by the Southeast lawsuit could become eligible for any potential financial settlement or jury verdict against DFA, should either occur.