Jon Campisi Apr. 11, 2013, 9:19am

A federal judicial panel has OK’d the creation of a multidistrict litigation case docket that

involves lawsuits alleging drywall price-fixing.

The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, in an April 8 transfer order, granted a petition by plaintiffs’ lawyers to consolidate six pending cases in what is being titled the Domestic Drywall Antitrust Litigation at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The parties in the case agreed on the concept of centralization, but they disagreed on the transferee district, or the venue at which the pending cases would be consolidated, the record shows.

Out of the six pending cases, two were initiated at the Western District of North Carolina while the other four had been filed at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Since the filing of the motion seeking the creation of an MDL, the transfer order states, the parties notified the panel of 14 related actions pending in various federal courts throughout the country.

The order states that all of the defendants named in the various lawsuits, the plaintiffs in four of the actions, and the plaintiffs in five potential tag-along actions had supported centralization at the federal court in Philadelphia, while the plaintiffs in four potential tag-along actions had asked that the MDL be created in the Northern District of Illinois.

“On the basis of the papers filed and the hearing session held, we find that these actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization under Section 1407 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will serve at the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation,” the judicial panel wrote. “Centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, especially with respect to class certification; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.”

The lawsuits all share common factual questions arising from allegations that domestic manufacturers of drywall, which is also known as sheetrock and gypsum board, have engaged in a conspiracy to fix, raise, maintain, and/or stabilize the prices of drywall products sold across the country.

In deciding to centralize in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the judicial panel wrote that all defendants and plaintiffs in the majority of the pending actions had supported a transfer to Philadelphia, and that relevant documents and witnesses can be found “in or near this district, inasmuch as several defendants have their principal places of business in Pennsylvania or other states in the mid-Atlantic area.”

The panel assigned the MDL to U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson, a jurist who was described by the panel as an “experienced transferee judge who we are confident will steer this litigation on a prudent course.”

The two cases out of the Western District of North Carolina named in the transfer order are Caceres Drywall Corp. v. National Gypsum Co. et al. and Jerry R. Berkhous v. National Gypsum Co. et al., while the four Eastern District of Pennsylvania cases are as follows: Janicki Drywall Inc. v. CertainTeed Corp. et al., New Deal Lumber & Millwork Co. Inc. v. USG Corp. et al., Sierra Drywall Systems Inc. v. CertainTeed Corp. et al., and Grubb Lumber Co. Inc. v. USG Corp. et al. 

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