RALEIGH, NC – Omtron USA LLC, owned by a Ukrainian billionaire, has sued a group of North Carolina chicken farmers in bankruptcy court.
The company laid off hundreds of workers and closed chicken processing facilities in 2012. In 2011, more than 30 North Carolina chicken farmers filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Omtron, which bought Townsends, a bankrupt chicken processor. Omtron invested $10 million in chicken plants in two cities before announcing plans to close the facilities. The chicken farmers claim they were stuck with debts incurred from building chicken houses in expectation of supplying the Townsends plants. The chicken suppliers are seeking $9 million in damages for terminated contracts.
The lawsuit was put on hold after Omtron filed for bankruptcy protection. But the chicken farmers moved to have themselves designated as creditors, and put liens on some of the company's assets in North Carolina. Omtron is asking the court to declare the liens invalid because the company is a legal resident of North Carolina and its assets aren't subject to such liens. Omtron is also claiming that the farmers did not take necessary steps to record their liens with local authorities.