A proposed partial settlement has been reached in the class action lawsuit involving the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association (“the Co-op”), and class members – those individuals and businesses who grew burley tobacco in one of five states during at least one of the 2015 to 2020 crop years – are urged to come forward and verify their membership at the website www.BTGCAsettlement.com or by calling 1-855-965-5569.
The class action in Haynes Properties, LLC, et al v. Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, Fayette Circuit (Ky.) Court, Case No. 20-CI-00332, includes, among other claims, a request to dissolve the Co-op and distribute its assets. The parties involved have agreed to a settlement of that claim for dissolution, which, if approved by Fayette Circuit Court Judge Julie Muth Goodman, would provide for wrapping up the Co-op’s affairs and an eventual payout of remaining assets to settlement class members in equal shares.
Anyone who grew burley tobacco in the states of Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, or Missouri in one or more of the 2015 to 2020 crop years is likely to be a member of the settlement class and potentially eligible for a distribution under the proposed settlement. Burley tobacco growers must confirm their status as settlement class members and file a W-9 tax identification form with the settlement administrator to receive a distribution.
Judge Goodman has ordered that notice of the proposed settlement be provided to members of the settlement class and has appointed attorneys Katherine Yunker and Jason Hollon, of the law firm McBrayer PLLC, as Class Counsel to represent these individuals and entities. She has also appointed Haynes Properties, LLC, Mitch and Scott Haynes dba Alvin Haynes & Sons, and S&GF Management, LLC (Penny Greathouse) as Class Representatives. The Court has scheduled a hearing for February 24, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. in Lexington, Kentucky, to consider whether the proposed settlement should be approved.
“It’s important that all class members know about the proposed settlement and their opportunity to participate in the Court’s consideration of the settlement proposal,” said Yunker. “Anyone who thinks they might be part of the class and eligible for a distribution if the partial settlement is approved should verify their membership as soon as possible. There are ways to establish membership if you have not already been identified as a class member, and the McBrayer law firm can help you do that.” In addition to contact resources provided above, growers may also receive assistance from the Class Counsel by calling 1-866-965-9005 (toll free) or 1-859-551-3622 or sending an email to ClassCounsel@mcbrayerfirm.com.
Key terms of this proposed settlement to resolve an important part of the on-going litigation include:
- The Co-op’s assets will be liquidated and $1.5 million of those assets will be paid to an agricultural-related non-profit organization.
- The remaining net proceeds will be distributed equally among growers whose settlement class membership has been verified and who have submitted a valid W-9, after payment of administrative and other costs and Court-approved attorney’s fees.
- A once-planned special meeting of Co-op members to vote on a plan for its dissolution will not be necessary if the proposed settlement is approved.
Founded in 1921, the Co-op initially enabled tobacco growers to market their crop directly to manufacturers. The Co-op also played a critical role in implementing the federal Tobacco Price Support Program from 1941 until 2004, when the program was eliminated.
Representatives of both sides in the litigation agreed the proposed settlement is a win for tobacco and agriculture in general in these challenging times. In addition to class members receiving shares of the Co-op’s assets, the proposed settlement provides that tobacco growers of all varieties have an opportunity to create a new, more relevant organization for the future to advocate for growers, and support education and research beneficial to growers.
For more information, growers and possible class members may contact the settlement administrator by calling toll free 1-855-965-5569, going to www.BTGCAsettlement.com, or writing to 1650 Arch Street, Suite 2210, Philadelphia, PA 19103.