Capacitor Price-Fixing Class Action Narrowed

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge dumped non-California law claims from an antitrust class action accusing major tech firms of conspiring to fix the prices of capacitors, a common component in most electronic devices.
     The consolidated class action stems in part from a complaint filed by lead plaintiff Chip-Tech in July 2014 against a slew of corporations including Panasonic, Hiatchi, Samsung, NEC, ROHM and others.
     In his Dec. 30 ruling, U.S. District Judge James Donato found indirect buyers of capacitors lacked standing to sue over claims arising from antitrust and consumer protection laws in 21 states other than California.
     The indirect buyers claimed one of their named plaintiffs, the liquidating trustee of the now-bankrupt Circuit City Stores, received deliveries of price-fixed capacitors in 21 states and therefore established standing to sue.
     But Donato found the capacitors were actually purchased in Virginia and receiving deliveries of price-fixed goods is not enough to establish Article III standing.
     The judge ruled that two individual indirect buyer plaintiffs residing in other states failed to establish standing as well because there was no evidence that they bought a product containing a price-fixed capacitor.
     “Merely living in a state, even one where price-fixing conduct occurred, is not a basis for standing if the plaintiff did not actually pay a supracompetitive price there for the accused product,” Donato wrote in his 19-page ruling. “Standing does not arise simply because illegality is in the air.”
     The judge also refused to grant Hitachi Chemical Co. America’s motion to dismiss indirect buyer claims, finding the plaintiffs adequately alleged the company was established “to effectuate and achieve the cartel’s aims and purposes” for the benefit of its Japanese parent firm.
     Specifically, the plaintiffs obtained evidence through discovery that showed a Hitachi corporate officer represented the interests of the “entire corporate family” in meetings with companies taking part in the conspiracy, according to the ruling.
     Donato also rejected an additional five motions to dismiss the direct buyers’ consolidated class action brought by Hitachi Chemical Co. America, AVX Corporation, Holy Stone Enterprises, Milestone Global Technology and Shizuki Electric.
     However, the judge did dismiss one defendant, American Shizuki Corporation, from the direct buyers’ class action, finding allegations against the American subsidiary were “too paltry.” American Shuziki’s motion to dismiss was granted with leave for plaintiffs to amend.
     The indirect buyers were given until Jan. 27 to file an amended complaint to fix standing issues with their non-California state law claims against the defendants.
     A hearing on class certification motions has been scheduled for July 20, 2016.
     Panasonic and other technology firms are also fighting similar antitrust class actions for their alleged roles in conspiracies to fix the prices of lithium ion batteries and electronic resistors.

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