CHICAGO - US District Court Judge Thomas M. Durkin ruled last week that large poultry producers must face antitrust litigation that accused them of conspiring to inflate chicken prices.

The in re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation lawsuit accused poultry processors of conspiring and coordinating production dating back to 2008. This lawsuit was initially filed by retail, foodservice and institutional buyers of chicken products.

Durkin stated that jurors could find it likely that major poultry companies, including Pilgrim's Pride, Sanderson Farms and Tyson Foods conspired for price fixing, throughout his 90-page decision.

"There are numerous examples of supposed competitors regularly exchanging sensitive production data with each other," Durkin said. "A jury could find that such conduct is not the behavior of active competitors."

Durkin also dismissed claims regarding the Sherman Act and RICO claims for Perdue Farms, Wayne Farms, Foster Farms, Case Farms, Norman W. Fries Inc., d/b/a Claxton Poultry Farms Inc. and Fieldale Farms Corp.

He later dismissed ongoing claims regarding Agri Stats Inc., which allegedly would monitor pricing and production for poultry companies.

Other companies that Durkin denied dismissal motions included Harrison Poultry, Koch Foods, Keystone Foods, Mountaire Farms, OK Foods, Pec Foods, Raeford Farms and Simmons Foods.

In his ruling, Durkin narrowed the timeframe for price-fixing allegations to be between 2008-2009 and 2011-2012.

He dismissed claims relating to supply cuts in 2015-2016 and alleged manipulation of the Georgia Dock broiler price index.

Last month, Simmons Foods was granted preliminary approval for an $8 million settlement regarding a direct purchaser price-fixing lawsuit.

Court documents said that if the Simmons agreement is approved, the total amount recovered for the direct purchaser lawsuit is $188.9 million.