Robotic Milker Litigation: $55M Class Settlement Secured for U.S. Dairy Farmers
Note: This post was originally published on April 18, 2022 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Stueve Siegel Hanson Obtains Final Approval of VMS Classic Settlement
Firm Continues the Fight for U.S. Dairy Farmers Regarding the Lely A4s and DeLaval V300
On July 20, 2022, the Court granted final approval of the $55 million settlement in SSH’s case against DeLaval for its defective VMS Classic.
On July 11, 2022, during the final fairness hearing, the Court granted final approval of the $55 million settlement, in Stueve Siegel Hanson’s case against DeLaval for its defective VMS Classic, with the written order to be entered on July 20, 2022 in accordance with the Class Action Fairness Act.
After more than two years of litigating against DeLaval, including full discovery and full briefing on class certification, the parties agreed to a nationwide settlement making available financial compensation to approximately 185 farmers using nearly 600 robots. Given the size of the settlement and the relative size of the class, firm partner Patrick Stueve said:
“This is a historic nationwide class settlement that will, pending final approval, provide extraordinary financial relief to farmers who used the DeLaval VMS Classic.”
The reaction of farmers during the claims process confirms this: Nearly half of users have made claims for reimbursement of their purchase price and/or milk losses.
Preliminary claims analysis suggests that cash payments to some farmers will exceed $1 million. Most farmers are expected to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
Though payouts will vary based on the number of robots purchased and documented milk losses, among other factors, the average payout per farmer who submitted a claim will likely fall between $350,000 and $450,000; and nearly 80 percent of claimants will receive more than $100,000. These figures are estimates as claims are currently be verified and processed. Final figures are expected to be available to class members soon.
Notably, Stueve Siegel Hanson is currently litigating two additional robotic milker cases on behalf of U.S. dairy farmers. One against DeLaval related to its second-generation VMS, the VMS V300, the other against Lely for its Lely Astronaut 4 (“A4”), which plaintiffs allege was defectively designed:
- DeLaval VMS V300 | The V300 case against DeLaval was recently filed in the Western District of Missouri and concerns DeLaval’s “upgrade” to the VMS Classic, which was released in 2018 and allegedly suffered from many of the same defects as the VMS Classic.
- Lely Astronaut 4 ("A4") | The plaintiffs in the case against Lely allege product defect and fraud on behalf of purchasers of the Lely A4 robotic milker, which was sold in the US in 2011-2018. This putative class action is in the middle of fact discovery, which is set to close in October 2022. Stueve Siegel Hanson successfully defeated a motion to dismiss by Lely in February 2020, Lely has now substantially completed its document productions, and the parties recently began depositions. Per Court order, the case must be jury trial ready by August 2023.
If you or someone you know purchased a Lely A4 or a DeLaval V300, please contact our team for more information.
Original post, published April 18, 2022:
$55M Class Settlement for DeLaval VMS Robot Receives Preliminary Approval
On April 14, 2022, Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP, Cullenberg & Tensen PLLC, and Perrone Law PLLC secured preliminary approval of a $55 million settlement with DeLaval Inc., a key player operating in the global agricultural robot market. The class action lawsuit against DeLaval regarding the Classic model of its voluntary milking system (“VMS”) was filed on behalf of VMS dairy farmers.
If U.S. District Court Judge Stephen R. Bough of the Western District of Missouri grants approval following the hearing set for July 2022, the proposed settlement will provide substantial monetary relief to dairy farmers who used DeLaval’s VMS robots and experienced serious operational problems. On the court’s settlement approval, firm partner Patrick Stueve said:
“We are pleased that the Court has preliminarily approved this historic nationwide settlement that provides much needed relief for dairy farmers who purchased the DeLaval VMS Classic robotic milker.”
Originally filed in November 2019, the lawsuit alleged DeLaval’s systems were defective and failed to perform as represented and advertised in the company’s marketing. More specifically, the class action alleged that the VMS Classic did not meet industry standard, that they had serious design defects, and that DeLaval fraudulently misrepresented and concealed these issues.
DeLaval responded by denying the allegations and vigorously defending the case. DeLaval initially moved to dismiss the case; however, in early 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri ruled that the VMS dairy farmers had a case. In his Order, Judge Bough rejected DeLaval’s request to prematurely preclude the case from moving forward as a class action and concluded the farmers had both adequately stated claims for relief in tort and warranty and raised arguments that would preclude enforcement limitations written into purchase agreements if successful on the merits.
From there, DeLaval continued its vehement defense strategy, but after full discovery—including nearly 40 depositions and the production of millions of pages of documents—and extensive settlement negotiations, DeLaval agreed to a settlement of $55 million.
In addition to this litigation, the firms are pursuing similar claims in a lawsuit against Lely North America, Inc., the current agricultural robot market leader, related to its line of Astronaut robotic milkers. In late 2020 and early 2021, Judge Nancy E. Brasel, U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, largely denied Lely’s motions to dismiss, ruling in favor of the Astronaut 4 dairy farmers by permitting their claims for breaches of express and implied warranties, negligence, strict liability, and fraudulent concealment.
For more information, visit roboticmilkerfailure.com.