FRESNO – Plaintiffs Jain Irrigation, et al. are seeking damages and injunctive relief in a suit filed against Netafim Irrigation Inc. over allegations it breached state laws as well as federal antitrust laws.
Their complaint was filed on Sept. 22 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Fresno Division.
Jain and Netafim are competing irrigation firms. In their complaint, the plaintiffs are suing over allegations that the defendants' “unlawful agreements in restraint of trade, namely, group boycotts and collective refusals to deal, unlawful resale restrictions, price discrimination and unfair competition” have harmed them.
The plaintiffs allege that the defendants "have illegally conspired to restrain trade or commerce, the conspiring manufacturers have discriminated in rebates, discounts or advertising service charges, and the co-conspirators have imposed unlawful resale restrictions on the sales of goods for use in drip or micro-irrigation applications. Such conduct has damaged plaintiffs AVI, IDC and Jain Irrigation by depriving them of the opportunity to make bids, proposals and sales," the suit states.
Plaintiff Jain Irrigation creates and sells irrigation equipment. The company recorded $80 million in sales in 2017. The company believes that its share of the 2017 U.S. micro-irrigation market was 26 percent, the suit states.
In April 2017, the suit states plaintiffs Irrigation Design & Construction LLC (IDC) and Agri-Valley Irrigation LLC (AVI) formally announced that they were merging into Jain Distribution Holdings Inc. The endeavor was funded by Jain Irrigation.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs note that “defendant Netafim, along with... the conspiring manufacturers accounted for... approximately 40 percent of the United States micro-irrigation market in 2017.”
The plaintiffs allege that the conspiring manufacturers sell their products to distributors and dealers rather than to end users. Plaintiffs also note that “the conspiring manufacturers are among the largest producers of micro and drip irrigation equipment, some of their products are specified in nearly every bid invitation issue...”
Plaintiffs complain that if a company is locked out from the conspiring manufacturers’ supply chain, it directly interferes with their business.
Before joining forces with Jain Irrigation, IDC and AVI were both recognized as dealers by the defendants, the suit states. According to the complaint, defendants entered into an agreement to “boycott” plaintiffs after the merger was announced. The plaintiffs allege that “Netafim and its co-conspirators sought to and did coerce and/or bribe other manufacturers and suppliers of drip and micro-irrigation equipment to cease doing business with IDC and AVI...”