Judge rules AG's poultry lawsuit to proceed to trial as scheduled

By Chris Rizo | Jul 5, 2009

Drew Edmondson (D)

TULSA, Okla. (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge says the case Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed against a group of large-scale poultry producers will go to trial as scheduled.

The poultry producers had asked that the Sept. 21 trial date be postponed so their legal teams could process papers submitted by the attorney general's office.

The companies are being sued by the Democratic attorney general and 2010 gubernatorial candidate for allegedly polluting the Illinois River watershed with chicken waste.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell on Thursday rejected the companies' motion to postpone the trial.

Edmondson sued 13 companies in 2005, claiming their chicken farms contaminated the 1-million-acre watershed. One of the companies, Springfield, Mo.-based Willow Brook Foods Inc., has proposed a $120,000 settlement to settle its portion of the case.

Willow Brook changed its name to Cold Zone Inc. last year. It is no longer in the poultry business. The company had owned 16 of the 1,800 poultry houses estimated to be in the Illinois River Watershed.

Other defendants in the lawsuit are: Tyson Foods Inc., Tyson Poultry Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cal-Maine Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., Cargill Turkey Production LLC., George's Inc., George's Farms Inc., Peterson Farms, Simmons Foods Inc. and Cal-Maine Farms Inc.

In an earlier interview with Legal Newsline, the attorney general said the poultry companies risk going broke if they don't settle before the trial.

"I would expect that the damage model that we create showing what is actually happened in the watershed will be beyond the reach of the companies," Edmondson said. "It's going to be far more significant than the resources that are available even though it's a multibillion dollar industry."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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