On October 7, in DairyAmerica, Inc. v. Carlin, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that overturned the dismissal of monetary claims in an action brought by dairy farmers alleging that Dairy America, Inc., and California Dairies, Inc. (together, “Dairy America”), misreported pricing data to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA sets the minimum dairy prices by issuing federal milk marketing orders based on pricing data reported by distributors such as Dairy America. The district court had dismissed the farmers’ monetary claims as barred by the filed rate doctrine, a rule that bars private actions in certain industries where the pricing terms are set by the sectors’ federal overseers.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, reasoning that an exception to the filed rate doctrine applied; i.e., where the federal agency has rejected the questionable rate, the filed rate doctrine does not bar private action. The Ninth Circuit found that the USDA’s recalculation of the minimum dairy prices constituted a sufficient rejection such that the filed rate doctrine was not a bar to litigation, and the dairy farmers could pursue their claims against Dairy America.