California’s Northern District to hear German automakers antitrust case

By David Hutton | Oct 23, 2017

A judicial panel on multi-district litigation is moving forward with a plan to centralize antitrust litigation against German automotive manufacturers for alleged anti-competitive conduct.

The panel included chairwoman Sarah S. Vance as well as Marjorie O. Rendell, R. David Proctor, Catherine D. Perry, Lewis A. Kaplan and Ellen Segal Huvelle.

The panel dismissed proposals to move the litigation to New Jersey or Florida. A total of 24 actions were centralized in U.S. District Court for California’s Northern District and assigned to Judge Charles R. Breyer for pretrial hearings.

The panel wrote the actions in question “involve common questions of fact, and that centralization under Section 1407 in the Northern District of California will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.” Moreover, the actions have a common thread that stems from allegations of anti-competitive conduct by German automakers.

The litigation alleges the automakers have “participated in a cartel since the 1990s.”

It alleges they have shared key information that was commercially sensitive and also forged agreements regarding technology, costs, markets and suppliers.

The plaintiffs include BMW, Audi AG, Daimler AG, Mercedes Benz, Porsche and Volkswagen.

The automakers, led by Porsche, Volkswagen and BMW, had pushed for the case to be heard in New Jersey federal court, alleging it had more resources to take up the multi-district litigation than does California’s Northern District.

Breyer is no stranger to automotive litigation.  He was on the bench for a case involving Volkwagen AG's emissions equipment that focused on the automaker's emissions equipment.

With the potential for some international discovery to overlap in the cases, the panel noted that it made sense for Breyer to handle the case.

International discovery in the cases might overlap, so it is a “logical choice” that Judge Breyer should preside over both MDLs, the panel said.

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