The Oklahoma Supreme Court this week reversed a $10 million jury verdict against Tyson Foods in April 2010 and ruled that the company is entitled to a new trial in a case brought by contract chicken growers.

The case included 54 individuals and business entities that sued Tyson Foods over contracts under which they were to raise chickens owned by Tyson on feed supplied by the company.  The plaintiffs in the case did not allege any contractual breach but asserted that they had been given poor quality birds and feed because they were not willing to upgrade their chicken houses from conventional to “cool cell” facilities.

A judge allowed 11 individuals and entities to proceed to trail.  The jury, in a nine to three split, awarded the growers compensatory and punitive damages of approximately $10 million.  Tyson subsequently filed a motion for a new trial.  The Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs original arguments under the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act and concluded that the voir dire portion of the trail was flawed.

“This decision affirms our position that the trial in this case was so improperly conducted that the verdict could not stand.  The family farmers who raise our chickens are vital to our business, and we want them to be successful.  Contrary to the claims made in the case, we abide by the terms of the contracts we have with poultry farmers, and we strive to ensure all of them are treated fairly,” Tyson Foods said in a statement following the court’s decision.

 

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