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From Antitrust Law Daily, July 11, 2013

Upcoming trial in TFT-LCD case set to proceed with Kodak's claims against AU Optronics, Best Buy's claims against Toshiba

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

In an action against manufacturers of thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels for conspiring to fix prices, the federal district court in San Francisco has denied defendant AU Optronics Corporation's request that the claims of Eastman Kodak Company be tried separately from the claims of retailers Best Buy Company and Target Corporation. In a separate order, the court denied Toshiba Corporation’s motion for summary judgment on Best Buy's claims (In re: TFT-LCD (Flat Panel) Antitrust Litigation: Eastman Kodak Co. v. Epson Imaging Devices Corp.; Best Buy v. Toshiba Corp., July 8, 2013, Illston, S.).

Motion for Separate Trial. In light of recent settlements with Best Buy and Target, AUO sought a trial for Kodak separate from the upcoming trial involving “Track 1B plaintiffs,” including Best Buy and Target. Kodak, as well as defendants LG, Toshiba, and Hannstar, opposed AUO’s motion.

The court concluded that the inefficiency a separate trial would create for the court, the witnesses, counsel, the jurors, and the parties outweighed the concerns raised by AUO. AUO contended that including Kodak with the other Track 1B plaintiffs would result in a trial that was “more complicated, lengthier, and more inefficient” than a separate trial. AUO suggested that Kodak's different position in the distribution chain than the retailers and Kodak's small fraction of the total damages claimed by the Track 1B plaintiffs, among other things, justified the separate trial.

In denying the motion, the court pointed to the inefficiency that would be created by forcing common witnesses to appear in two separate trials. Moreover, despite differences between some of the legal theories advanced by Kodak versus Best Buy and Target, there was sufficient overlap in a number of issues to warrant a single Track 1B trial. Any potential jury confusion could be mitigated with instructions.

Motion for Summary Judgment. The court also refused to drop Best Buy's claims against Toshiba from the upcoming trial. Toshiba unsuccessfully argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because Best Buy was unable to provide direct evidence of the company's participation in any conspiracy meetings and was unable to satisfy its burden in providing evidence tending to exclude the possibility that Toshiba acted independently. The court noted that it had previously addressed and rejected a similar motion by Toshiba in the Direct Purchaser Plaintiff trial last year. There was circumstantial evidence that Toshiba might have participated in the conspiracy.

The case, Eastman Kodak Co. v. Epson Imaging Devices Corp., is No. 10-CV-5452 (MDL. No. 1827).

The case, Best Buy v. Toshiba Corp., is No. 12-CV-4114 (MDL. No. 1827).

Attorneys: David Martinez (Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.) for Best Buy Co. Blaire Zina Russell (Nixon Peabody) for Eastman Kodak Co. Christopher M. Curran (White & Case) for Toshiba Corp. Allison Marie Dibley (Nossaman LLP) for AU Optronics Corp.

Companies: AU Optronics Corp.; Best Buy Co., Inc.; Eastman Kodak Co.; Target Corp.; Toshiba Corp.

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust CaliforniaNews

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