CHICAGO -- A judge's decision to grant class-action status to a milk price-fixing lawsuit filed in Cook County court will potentially allow millions of customers of Dominick's Finer Foods and Jewel Food Stores to participate in any settlement of the case.
The suit alleges that the region's two principal retailers overcharged customers for fluid milk between 1996 and 2000. The litigation, originally filed in August 2000, is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 15, 2003, according to an attorney for the 12 plaintiffs, who include lawyers working on the case and their families.
"We're seeking lower milk prices in Chicago and some form of compensation for the past price-fixing that took place," said Andy Hale, an attorney for Rock, Fusco & Garvey Ltd.
Wynona Redmond, a spokeswoman for Dominick's, a division of Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., said the company is confident the retailer will prevail at trial.
"We believe we are fairly priced," she told SN. "Like many other staples, there are different prices on different days [for milk], depending on supply and demand."
When the lawsuit was filed, both retailers were charging $3.69 a gallon, according to court documents. More recently, the price averaged $3.39 a gallon. The case covers gallon, half-gallon and quart purchases during the period in question -- with the potential to include millions of shoppers in Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Will, Lake, McHenry, Grundy, Kane and Kendall counties.
One likely option in resolving the case could include the distribution of coupons for free milk, according to Hale. A panel convened by his firm is conducting a "damage analysis" that plots the difference between the prices actually charged and "what prices would have been had there not been price-fixing," he said.