Judge certifies class in Wis. case against auto replacement parts

By Whitney Wright | Jul 26, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) — Judge Lynn Adelman has granted class certification in an aftermarket automotive sheet metal parts class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

In Fond du Lac Bumper Exchange v. Jui Li Enterprise et al, the defendants are accused of contriving to fix the cost of the automotive sheet metal parts —replacement parts for cars not contrived by the original manufacturers and distributed through auto manufacturers’ service channels — and violating the Sherman Act, an act that guards the public from monopolies. 

After submitting the commonality and predominance requirements for class certification concerning a Sherman Act claim, the plaintiffs' arguments were accepted. Allegations include that the defendants had some sort of conspiracy in motion, there were effects of the conspiracy evident in the market and that those in the proposed class were harmed.

The commonality requirement refers to common legal matters and facts among the class members and the predominance condition requires there be common questions to all class members, all of which must be fulfilled by the same evidence and approach during damages calculations. The court found these requirements satisfied through the regression analysis of the plaintiffs’ expert, a common analysis type for class action lawsuits.

“As a general matter, plaintiffs and defendants each submit their own expert analysis to argue for or against certifying a class. In this case, plaintiffs presented the court with regression analysis,” Deirdre McEvoy, counsel in Patterson Belknap’s litigation department, told Legal Newsline in an email interview. 

“That analysis showed what the market would have been like in the absence of anti-competitive conduct by defendants, and compared that hypothetical market to the actual market, which they claim was affected by defendants’ conspiracy. 

"Many plaintiffs seeking to certify a class offer do some kind of regression analysis, but expert analysis varies.”

In the analysis, the plaintiffs' expert provided Adelman with a pricing structure analysis to show that the prices of different automotive products would have actually been lower had the defendant’s restrictions on the market had not been in place. The defendants' expert’s regression analysis also showed the but-for price — the estimated price the class members would have paid if the defendant’s anti-competitive conduct was not in place — of the automotive parts.

The class is composed of the direct purchasers of the aftermarket automotive parts.

“The court projected that the class would be composed of 400-500 class members,” McEvoy said. “Defendants could be liable for treble damages — that is, three times the amount of damages they are found liable for.”

In similar cases concerning antitrust lawsuits and auto parts and installation, defendants have had to pay anywhere from $2 million to $24 million in criminal fines. 

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