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In re Capacitors Antitrust Class Action Update: Claims Slightly Narrowed, Parties Continue Discovery

When we last wrote in June 2015 about In re Capacitors Antitrust Litig., No. 14-03264-JD, consolidated putative class actions pending before Judge James Donato in the Northern District of California, the plaintiffs had just largely survived a motion to dismiss.  That blog post, which describes the background of the case and the first round of motions to dismiss, is available here.  Recently, on December 30, 2015, the court ruled on several additional motions to dismiss based on plaintiffs’ amended complaints.

By way of reminder, the case generally involves allegations by two groups of plaintiffs: four named direct capacitor purchasers (DPPs) and five named indirect capacitor purchasers (IPPs).  “Capacitors” are, as the court has put it, “a ubiquitous component” in most electronic devices.  As our previous post explained, capacitors are used almost universally to store energy on a short-term basis and smooth the flow of energy through a circuit.  The essence of plaintiffs’ claims is that the defendants, foreign manufacturers of capacitors and their U.S. subsidiaries, have conspired to fix capacitor prices worldwide.

Since our last post in June 2015, the court ordered consolidated a related case brought by DPP Flextronics International USA, Inc.  Flextronics has opted to proceed individually and not as part of the putative class, although the class DPPs and Flextronics filed a joint amended complaint.  Since the court’s ruling on the initial motions to dismiss, the allegations made on a class basis have by and large remained the same: the class DPPs continue to press one claim for relief under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.  Flextronics, meanwhile, is suing defendant manufacturers for damages only, while the class DPPs have claims for damages and injunctive relief against all defendants.  Flextronics also is asserting a claim under California’s Cartwright Act and Unfair Competition Law.

In its ruling on December 30, 2015, the Court denied all the defendants’ motions to dismiss except dismissed the claims against American Shizuki Corporation (ASC) for failure to state a claim because the allegations against it were “too paltry.”  The Court gave the DPPs an opportunity to amend its allegations against ASC.

The IPPs meanwhile reprised their claims under 21 state antitrust and consumer protection statutes even without allegations from individual consumers who purchased capacitors in those states.  In its order on December 30, 2015, however, the court dismissed the IPPs’ claims under non-California state law because the named IPPs lacked Article III standing: “[T]o have standing under Article III to bring a state-law antitrust or related consumer protection claim in a price-fixing class action, a named plaintiff must have purchased the price-fixed product in the state under whose law he or she seeks to bring a claim.”  The court left open the possibility that the IPPs could amend their complaint a final time “if they are able to locate a named plaintiff who can assert an Article III injury-in-fact.”  The court gave the IPPs until January 27, 2016 to so amend.

Meanwhile, discovery is underway.  Parties have begun to exchange documents, and depositions are slated to begin as early as February 2016.  The parties are fighting over whether some depositions will be held in Japan or California.  The court held a status conference on January 13, 2016, although any rulings from that conference were not immediately available.