AUGUSTA (AP) – A judge has given preliminary approval to settlements proposed by three of the four wild blueberry processors accused by growers of fixing prices.

Superior Court Justice Joseph Jabar said Friday he will schedule a final hearing in the case for late June.

“Everyone with a concern about the settlements will have plenty of notice and opportunity to be heard,” said William Robitzek, attorney for some 500 growers who joined in the civil suit that began more than four years ago.

“What the judge found today is that the proposed settlements are within the range of what he might consider to be a fair end to the lawsuit,” Robitzek said.

Three of the state’s four largest processors – Cherryfield Foods Inc., Jasper Wyman & Son of Milbridge and Allen’s Blueberry Freezer of Ellsworth – were found guilty in November.

The fourth and smallest of the four processors, Merrill’s Blueberry Farms of Ellsworth, avoided trial by agreeing to an $85,000 settlement in advance of the trial.

After growers were awarded $56 million in damages, Cherryfield Foods and Wyman’s struck agreements with the growers. Those settlements call for payments of $2.5 million by Cherryfield Foods and $1.5 million by Wyman’s.

If the settlements gain final approval, growers who file claims will receive one payment a year from the settlement fund between 2004 and 2008.

Allen’s has not settled with the growers and is still immersed in the legal battle.

AP-ES-05-15-04 1150EDT



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