District Court Grants Class Certification in CRT Antitrust Indirect Purchaser Class Action

On September 24, 2013, the District Court for the Northern District of California certified the claims of indirect purchasers of Cathode Ray Tubes to proceed as a class action.  More specifically, the court certified 22 separate statewide damage classes under each state’s antitrust/consumer protection laws pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3).  The class is generally defined as all persons or entities who, during the period from March 1, 1995 to November 25, 2007, purchased Cathode Ray Tubes incorporated in televisions and monitors in the 22 states indirectly from any defendant or conspirator and not for resale.  Excluded from the class are the defendants and all governmental agencies. A copy of the District Court order is here.  A copy of the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Reccomendation is here.

In order to obtain class certification, the plaintiffs in the case had to overcome arguments that the Supreme Court’s decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013) required rejection of plaintiff’s damage methodology. Defendants argued that under Comcast, at the class certification stage, the alleged damages must be measurable on a classwide basis through reliable common economic evidence. Although the court in Comcast was addressing the situation where plaintiffs assert multiple theories of antitrust liability but fail to tie their proposed damages measurement to the theory on which they ultimately rely, the defendants in the CRT case argued that Comcast requires plaintiffs to provide proof of, and calculate, damages at the class certification stage. The District Court rejected the defendants’ interpretation of Comcast.

The District Court found that Comcast presented a situation in which the plaintiffs’ theory of damages did not map to their theory of liability, so the plaintiffs failed to show through common evidence that all class members had been harmed by the alleged conspiracy.  The Court then found that the Comcast fact pattern did not exist in the CRT case where the Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs asserted a single theory of antitrust harm: that the cartel overcharged direct purchasers of CRTs, who passed on the overcharge through the distribution chain down to the consumers, who were harmed by the antitrust impact.  The Court concluded that Plaintiffs’ expert’s damage calculation properly addressed that theory and that, “neither Comcast nor any other precedent requires the [indirect purchaser plaintiffs] to provide exact calculations of their damages at the certification stage.”

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