Faced with Two Motions to Centralize Class Actions, Judicial Panel Grants Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 and Agrees with Plaintiffs in Pennsylvania Class Actions that Eastern District of Pennsylvania is the Appropriate Forum for the Class Actions
Three class actions –two in Pennsylvania and one in Minnesota – were filed against various defendants alleging federal antitrust violations; 16 related class action lawsuits subsequently were filed (12 in Pennsylvania, 3 in Minnesota and one in New Jersey), which were treated as potential tag-along cases. In re Processed Egg Products Antitrust Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. December 2, 2008) [Slip Opn., at 1 and n.1]. Two separate motions were filed with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407; plaintiff in the Minnesota class action sought centralization in that federal court; on the other hand, plaintiff in one of the Pennsylvania class actions, supported by plaintiffs in the remaining Pennsylvania class actions, sought centralization in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Id. Defense attorneys for responding parties supported centralization in either the District of Minnesota or, alternatively, the Southern District of Indiana. Id. Finally, plaintiff in a potentially related class action pending in the New Jersey federal court argued that centralization in Minnesota was warranted but only as to those class actions “relating to processed egg products,” not as to class actions concerning “shell eggs,” id. The Judicial Panel agreed to centralize all of the class action lawsuits finding that they “share factual questions relating to allegations that defendants conspired to fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize the price of eggs and/or processed egg products sold in the United States in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.” Id. Accordingly, pretrial coordination would serve the purposes of Section 1407 in that it will “eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, especially with respect to class certification; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.” Id., at 1-2. The Panel expressly rejected the claim that class actions related to shell eggs should be handled separately from class actions concerning egg products, id., at 2.
With respect to forum, the Judicial Panel acknowledged that either Minnesota or Pennsylvania would be appropriate transferee forums, but selected the Eastern District of Pennsylvania because 14 actions are already pending there, including the “broadest” of the class actions. Id., at 2. Accordingly, the Panel ordered all of the actions outside of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania transferred to that forum, id.