In December 2001, a federal grand jury returned a 36-count indictment against Tyson Foods, Inc., the world's largest poultry processor, and several individuals, charging the defendants with conspiring to smuggle undocumented aliens into the U.S. and employing them at Tyson's chicken processing plants throughout the country. Shortly after the criminal indictment, plaintiffs filed a nationwide class action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee against Tyson and several of its top management personnel, alleging civil violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq., and the Immigration Reform and Control Act ("IRCA"), 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a), et seq. Plaintiffs alleged that Tyson engaged in a massive scheme to hire undocumented immigrants for the express purpose of depressing employee wages. The scheme allegedly involved the use of temporary employment agencies to recruit and lure undocumented immigrants from Mexico to work in its chicken plants. Plaintiffs further alleged that the scheme consisted of what plaintiffs termed a "willful blindness policy," which included management turning a blind eye to obviously fake work papers and ignoring other factors that suggested that the workers it hired were not legally entitled to work in the U.S. The civil case was initially assigned to Judge R. Allan Edgar.
Tyson and its officers responded by moving to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, asserting that plaintiffs' RICO claims were preempted by the National Labor Relations Act. Tyson also asserted that plaintiffs' complaint failed to state a claim, in that employee wages were the product of Union collective bargaining and therefore could not have resulted from the hiring of undocumented workers. The District Court (Chief Judge Edgar) granted the motion and dismissed the case for failure to state a claim. Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 214 F. Supp. 2d 840 (E.D. Tenn. 2002) Plaintiffs appealed, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal. Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 370 F.3d 602 (6th Cir. 2004).
On remand, Tyson moved for summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds as to two of the plaintiffs. That motion was denied. Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 2006 WL 319022, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17448 (E.D. Tenn. Feb. 8, 2006). Tyson also filed a second motion to dismiss the case on the pleadings, and that motion, too, was denied on September 18, 2006. The District Court (Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier) also denied defendants' request to certify its ruling for purposes of immediate appeal. Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 2006 WL 2868980, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71500 (E.D. Tenn. Sep. 29, 2006).
Shortly thereafter, the District Court (Chief Judge Collier) granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 2006 WL 2924938, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74114 (E.D. Tenn. Oct. 10, 2006). A case management conference was held in January 2007 and the Court entered a discovery schedule and set the case for trial on March 3, 2008.
In 2007, the District Court issued a series of rulings on a variety of discovery and procedural issues. See Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 2007 WL 951869, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23329 (E.D. Tenn. Mar. 28, 2007) (ordering defendants not to redact certain portions of Tyson company minutes submitted for in camera
review); Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 2007 WL 1091217, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26611 (E.D. Tenn. Apr. 10, 2007) (ruling that defendants are not entitled to affirmative defenses of estoppel and statute of limitations); Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 2007 WL 1574275, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38882(E.D. Tenn. May 29, 2007) (denying Tyson's motion to dismiss); Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 2007 WL 3231793 (E.D. Tenn. Oct 30, 2007) (denying motion to continue an expert witness hearing and the trial date); Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 2007 WL 4260817, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88866 (E.D. Tenn. Dec. 3, 2007) (approving class notice as modified by order). See also McGrew v. Trollinger
, No. 4:02-cv-00023, 2007 WL 4106067 (W.D. Ark. Nov. 16, 2007) (ruling that witnesses in Arkansas that were subpoenaed for depositions had to appear.).
On February 13, 2008, the District Court (Chief Judge Collier) entered an order granting summary judgment for the defendants and dismissing the plaintiffs' claims with prejudice. Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 543 F. Supp. 2d 842 (E.D. Tenn. 2008). The Court found that plaintiffs had failed to produce evidence demonstrating the presence of at least ten unauthorized employees at any given Tyson facility; it further found that plaintiffs' evidence only demonstrated that Tyson was harboring or concealing undocumented aliens at all at one facility, and that this evidence was insufficient to show proximate causation of any injuries.
The Court (Chief Judge Collier) denied a motion for reconsideration on May 2, Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
, 2008 WL 1984264, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33101 (E.D. Tenn. May 2, 2008), and the case was closed.Christopher Schad - 07/09/2012