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Delaware District Court Upholds Final Class Certification Denial in Truck Transmission Antitrust Case

Pepper Hamilton attorneys win another victory for Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks Inc.

12/14/2017
Delaware District Court Upholds Final Class Certification Denial in Truck Transmission Antitrust Case

On December 6, 2017, Judge Eduardo C. Robreno of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rejected plaintiffs’ efforts to certify two antitrust class actions against several large truck manufacturers collectively claiming more than $1 billion. Following these rulings, only individual actions remain, sounding the death knell to these cases that were first filed in 2010.

Pepper Hamilton, a multi-practice law firm with a well-reputed antitrust practice, represented Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks Inc. in the two lawsuits originally filed in federal district court in Delaware against multiple Class 8 truck manufacturers and their transmission supplier Eaton Corporation. Plaintiffs, seeking to represent classes of direct and indirect truck purchasers, allege that the truck manufacturers entered into a series of exclusive supply agreements with Eaton with the intent to eliminate Eaton’s competitor, Meritor. In 2015, Delaware District Judge Sue L. Robinson ruled that the indirect purchaser plaintiffs failed to satisfy 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. The plaintiffs appealed Judge Robinson’s ruling, and, on February 9, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision denying class certification. The Third Circuit held that 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.”

Upon Judge Robinson’s retirement, the cases were transferred to Judge Robreno. Both direct and indirect purchaser plaintiffs asked the District Court to reopen the discovery and to allow revised expert reports and renewed class certification proceedings. Last week, following a hearing, Judge Robreno denied plaintiffs’ request for additional discovery and additional class proceedings. Judge Robreno also denied direct purchaser plaintiffs’ pending class certification motion. The District Court held that Judge Robinson’s prior decision in the indirect purchaser action, affirmed by the Third Circuit, necessarily required that the direct purchaser plaintiffs’ class certification motion also be denied because both sets of plaintiffs relied on the exact same expert analysis to satisfy Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement.    

“These rulings are massive wins that effectively deny and end all efforts to seek class certification in this case,” said Jeremy Heep, lead counsel in the case and co-chair of Pepper Hamilton’s Antitrust and Competition Section. “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.”

Heep led the case together with Pepper partner Daniel Boland, a member of the firm’s executive committee.

“We are extremely happy with the District Court’s decision,” said Boland. “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.”

Pepper senior associate Michael Hartman also played a key role in obtaining this result. Firms representing the other defendants were Baker Botts, Hogan Lovells, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Kirkland & Ellis and Perkins Coie.