But before we talk about the North District of California’s class certification decision in In re Lithium Ion Batteries Antitrust Litigation, we will hit the highlights of the most common dispute in these type of cases.
It is also important that you know that, as of the date of this blog post, Bona Law represents a defendant in the In re Capacitors Antitrust Litigation, which also will involve a class certification motion from plaintiffs and similar issues. So please evaluate anything I write with that in mind.
In fact, even though we will represent businesses as either plaintiffs or defendants in competitor antitrust litigation, Bona Law will not—except in rare or unusual circumstances—represent a class action of plaintiffs in an antitrust action (at least as of now). We will, however, represent defendants in antitrust class-action cases, as I have many times over my career.
So, the bottom line, is that I come to these issues from the perspective of an antitrust attorney representing defendants in class action litigation. It is a good practice when reading anything to always understand the perspective of the writer, to understand biases, blind spots, or how their experiences can cloud their explanations. I do my best at The Antitrust Attorney Blog to provide useful information rather than propaganda or corporate double-speak, but I am human with all of the weaknesses and limitations that come with that.
If you want to read about how alleged anticompetitive conduct morphs into a significant antitrust class action, check out our prior blog post.
Common Class Certification Issues
Every case is different, of course, but here is what usually matters most at the class-certification stage of antitrust class-action litigation:
Plaintiffs will collect a lot of transactional data and other discovery from defendants. They will pass that on to their expert economists, who will submit a report that plaintiffs need to satisfy the elements of class certification—which is their burden. Defendants, of course, have their own expert who will attack plaintiffs’ experts and often present their own economic theories.
The primary issue in dispute is usually whether common issues predominate over individual issues—from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 23(b)(3). And the most likely disputed issue that may be either common or individual is the impact or damages from the alleged anticompetitive conduct.
The Court is not tasked with determining the merits—including whether there was, in fact, an antitrust conspiracy—so the parties will often at this stage fight over whether if there were a conspiracy, the plaintiffs’ experts can establish a reliable methodology to show that there is a common impact to the many class members. Of course, issues of merits are usually entangled within the class-certification questions.
Another issue that is increasingly important in antitrust class actions is typicality—whether the named or representative class members are “typical” of the unrepresented members of the class.
This battle usually happens on two fronts during class certification: (1) motions to strike the plaintiffs’ expert economists’ testimony for lack of reliability or something similar; and (2) whether plaintiffs can satisfy the elements for class certification.
That, in fact, was where the parties fought in the papers for class certification of the Lithium Ion case.
Class Certification Decision for In re Lithium Ion Batteries Antitrust Litigation
The Lithium Ion Batteries case involves allegations by named class members of a multi-year, international price-fixing conspiracy among Japanese and Korean manufacturers (and their American subsidiaries) of lithium ion battery cells.