Federal judge denies certification of class action lawsuit against truck manufacturers

By Nicholas Malfitano | Dec 20, 2017

PHILADELPHIA – A federal judge in Philadelphia struck down an effort to certify a pair of anti-trust class action lawsuits filed against several large truck manufacturers back in 2010, suits which encompassed claims totaling in excess of $1 billion.

On Dec. 6, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Eduardo C. Robreno made the decision to reject the certification of the class action lawsuits in question – leading only individual actions remaining.

The suits were originally filed in 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware versus several Class 8 truck manufacturers and the supplier of their transmissions, Eaton Corporation. Representing Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks, Inc. was Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton.

The plaintiffs, looking to represent classes of direct and indirect truck purchasers, claim the truck manufacturers entered into a series of exclusive supply agreements with Eaton, with the intent to eliminate Eaton’s competitor, Meritor.

In 2015, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware Judge Sue L. Robinson ruled the indirect purchaser plaintiffs failed to fulfill Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement to certify a class – that is, indirect purchaser plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that they could prove antitrust injury, an essential element of their claim, through evidence common to the class.

Those plaintiffs appealed Judge Robinson’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which affirmed the District Court’s decision denying class certification on Feb. 9 of this year. The Third Circuit stated the “District Court procedurally and substantively conducted a rigorous analysis of the appellants’ theory of class-wide impact and available evidence, and that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in its analysis.”

When Judge Robinson’s retired, the instant cases were transferred to Judge Robreno’s court in Philadelphia. The plaintiffs asked the District Court to re-open the discovery and to permit revised expert reports and renewed class certification proceedings.

Subsequent to a hearing, Judge Robreno denied the plaintiffs’ request for additional discovery and additional class proceedings, in addition to denying direct the purchaser plaintiffs’ pending class certification motion. The District Court ruled Judge Robinson’s prior decision in the indirect purchaser action, upheld by the Third Circuit, mandated that the direct purchaser plaintiffs’ class certification motion also be denied, because both sets of plaintiffs used the exact same expert analysis to satisfy Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement.

Lead defense counsel and co-chair of Pepper Hamilton’s Anti-Trust and Competition Section Jeremy Heep said, “These rulings are massive wins that effectively deny and end all efforts to seek class certification in this case, Though individual actions may still move forward, this win is a complete grand slam. Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks are delighted with this correct result.”

Pepper Hamilton partner, executive committee member and fellow member of defense counsel Daniel Boland concurred.

“We are extremely happy with the District Court’s decision. Plaintiffs had a full and fair opportunity to gather and present evidence necessary to certify a class and failed. We believe that justice was done by bringing finality to the class certification proceedings,” Boland said.

The defendants are represented by Heep, Boland and Michael Hartman of Pepper Hamilton, in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware cases 1:10-cv-00260 & 1:11-cv-00009

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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Pepper Hamilton LLP U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

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