Milk money: Michigan residents able to file for settlement

MICHIGAN — Anyone who bought milk or dairy products in Michigan since 2003 may be able to receive payment through a class-action lawsuit settlement — if a claim is filed by Jan. 31.

Eligible residents and entities purchased milk or fresh-milk products such as cream, half and half, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, or sour cream from a grocery store for their own use or for a program which provides the products at no charge. Anyone purchasing milk for resale and governmental entities are not eligible.

Payment amounts will vary based on how many eligible claims are submitted and the volume of purchases, according to boughtmilk.com, the official website for the Fresh Milk Products Price-Fixing Class Action Lawsuit.

“There will be two different levels of fixed cash payments, based on class member’s purchases and the total number of class members making claims. Any class member whose claim form identifies it as purchasing milk and fresh milk products in an amount that exceeds normal household purchases will receive the higher fixed amount,” the website states.

Residents can file a claim online or by mail. Online claims will likely take less than a minute and are submitted at boughtmilk.com.

The form asks for the claimant’s name and email address and then claimants select the correct purchase options, stating they lived in one of the 15 eligible states or the District of Columbia, bought dairy products and indicate whether they’re submitting as individuals or organizations.

Mailed claims can be sent to Fresh Milk Products Antitrust Litigation, PO Box 43430, Providence RI 02940-3430.

“If final approval is granted to the settlement, Class members who have filed valid and timely claims will receive cash payments distributed directly into an online account of their choosing,” the website states. “… Any remaining funds may be distributed in a second round using grocery loyalty cards to be automatically loaded with a fixed dollar amount, based on triggering purchases of milk or fresh milk products in the relevant states, or, depending on the funds remaining, distributed to the Attorneys General for the class jurisdictions for use in prosecuting consumer antitrust claims. Under no circumstances will the money go back to the defendants.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in 2011 against food companies and dairy producer groups including Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’ Lakes, Cooperatives Working Together, Dairylea Cooperative, Agri-Mark Inc. and National Milk Producers Federation.

The suit alleged that the defendants engaged in a nationwide conspiracy to limit milk production by prematurely slaughtering hundreds of thousands of dairy cows.

“The biggest dairy producers in the country, responsible for almost 70% of the nation’s milk supply, conspired together in a classic price-fixing scheme,” Steve Berman, managing partner of the Hagens Berman law firm, in San Francisco, said in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of individual consumers based on research from an animal rights group.

(Tribune News Services contributed to this report.)