Robot milker manufacturer DeLaval has had to pay $55m to United States dairy farmers over failings in some of its machines.
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US dairy farmers stand to gain €55m over DeLaval robot milker failings

US farmers took the company to court claiming that its Classic VMS (Voluntary Milking System) model, which was sold between 2000 and 2018, did not performance as promised.

In the landmark case, law firms Stueve Siegel Hanson, Cullenberg & Tensen, and Perrone Law secured preliminary approval of the multi million dollar settlement with DeLaval.

The next step is for US District Court Judge Stephen R. Bough of the Western District of Missouri to grant approval following the hearing set for July, when the proposed settlement will provide significant funds for dairy farmers who used DeLaval’s VMS robots and experienced operational problems.

Lawyer 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, initially moving to dismiss the case – however, in early 2020, the US 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 eventually agreed to a settlement of $55 million. Farmers will be able to register their claim once the settlement is finalised.

In addition to this litigation, the firms are pursuing similar claims in a lawsuit against Lely North America, relating to its line of Astronaut robotic milkers. So far Judge Nancy E. Brasel, US 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.

Farmer organisations have called the proposed changes to the code of welfare for dairy cattle as big, complex and overly prescriptive.

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