Plaintiffs claimed that several egg-producer trade groups and a large egg producer violated the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1, by price-fixing the cost of eggs. After trial, the jury instructions and verdict form asked if the defendants agreed to conspire to reduce the supply of eggs by 1) taking several short-term steps to reduce the supply of hens and chicks, 2) requiring producers to follow certain guidelines to become United Egg Producer (UEP) certified, and 3) coordinating an export program to decrease the domestic supply of eggs. The jury found that the defendants did not conspire to reduce the supply of eggs.
On appeal, the plaintiffs claimed the use of the word “and” in the jury instructions and verdict form did not allow the jury to find a conspiracy occurred unless the plaintiffs proved all three of the aforementioned allegations. However, the district court consistently instructed the jury on the correct components of a conspiracy. Therefore, any error on a jury form did not affect the outcome and was harmless.
The plaintiffs also claimed that the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury that defendants’ conduct was a per se violation of the Sherman Act. The court disagreed, however, ruling that the per se rule is “appropriate only after courts have had considerable experience with the type of restraint at issue, and only if courts can predict with confidence that it would be invalidated in all or almost all instances under the rule of reason.