A federal jury awarded $17.7 million in damages to Kraft and other major food suppliers on Friday for a price-fixing conspiracy that claims egg producers were trying to limit the egg supply in the U.S., according to Reuters.
Last week, a jury ruled that the egg producers used several methods to limit the domestic supply of eggs to increase the price of products during the 2000s.
While the exact time frame of the alleged conspiracy was debated throughout the case, jurors eventually concluded damages occurred between 2004 and 2008.
Food manufacturers joining as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the egg producers are Kraft Foods Global, Inc., The Kellogg Company, General Mills, Inc. and Nestle USA, Inc.
The damages awarded could be tripled under U.S. antitrust law to more than $53 million. It capped the second phase of a two-part trial against Cal-Maine Foods (CALM.O), which is the country’s largest egg producer and distributor, and Rose Acre Farms, the second-largest, over claims that they overcharged for egg products.
“We are extremely grateful for the jury’s service and findings. This was an important case for many reasons, and the jury’s award recognizes its significance,” Brandon Fox, an attorney representing the food manufacturers, said in a statement.
The same Illinois jury held the egg producers responsible for the alleged antitrust conspiracy after a more than five-week trial, but Ridgeland, Mississippi-based Cal-Maine and the other defendants had denied any wrongdoing.
In a statement, Cal-Maine called the damages amount “modest” compared to what the plaintiffs sought. The company also added that it will “continue to evaluate its options, including, if necessary, an appeal.”
Officials stated that Cal-Maine would also have to share responsibility for the damages award with the other three defendants.
Rose Acre also issued a statement saying it was “disappointed — and strongly disagrees — with the jury’s verdict and damages award.”
The jury’s liability decision held Cal-Maine accountable along with the other defendants, including trade associations United Egg Producers and United States Egg Marketers.
United Egg Producers and United States Egg Marketers representatives were not immediately available for comment on the case.