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In Re Hitachi Television Optical Block

January 3, 2011

IN RE HITACHI TELEVISION OPTICAL BLOCK


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Dana M. Sabraw United States District Judge

CASES ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' CERTIFICATION [Docket No. 100]

This Document Relates To: All Actions MOTION FOR CLASS

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Defendants Hitachi Home Electronic (America), Inc. ("HHEA"), Hitachi America, Ltd. ("HAL") and Hitachi Ltd. ("HL") filed an opposition to the motion, and Plaintiffs submitted a reply. After reviewing the initial briefs, the Court requested supplemental briefing from the parties on whether the application of California law to the claims of the nationwide class members would satisfy the constitutional standard set out in Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts, 472 U.S. 797 (1985). The parties submitted supplemental briefs on that issue. Defendants also submitted a sur-reply, to which Plaintiffs filed a rebuttal. The motion came on for hearing on December 17, 2010. Robert I. Lax appeared and argued on behalf of Plaintiffs, and Seth E. Pierce appeared and argued on behalf of Defendants. Having carefully considered the pleadings and arguments of counsel, the Court now denies the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

The named Plaintiffs in this consolidated case are Darrin Lingle, Matthew Wagner, George Yakoubian, Crystal Markee, Stan Gor, Jason Braswell and Karen Gilbert. Each of these Plaintiffs purchased an Hitachi LCD Rear Projection Television (the "product") from an independent retailer with an alleged "defect in a major component called the "Optical Block." (Lingle v. Hitachi Home Electronics (America), Inc., et al., Case Number 08cv1746, First Am. Compl. ¶ 3.) Plaintiffs allege the defect "was present upon delivery[,]" and that it "manifests itself over time, render[ing] the Televisions unsuitable for their principal and intended purpose, in that it causes video and color anomalies to be displayed on the screens of the Televisions, severely interfering with the program display." (Id.) Plaintiffs Lingle, Wagner and Yakoubian notified Hitachi of the problems they were having with their products, and requested that Hitachi repair the products pursuant to its warranty. (Id. ¶¶ 4-6.) However, Hitachi stated the products were out of warranty, and refused to make any repairs. (Id.) Plaintiffs also allege Defendants Hitachi Home Electronics (America), Inc., Hitachi America, Ltd., and Hitachi Ltd. knew about the defect, but failed to disclose it to the general public. (Id. ¶ 12.)

On September 23, 2008, Plaintiffs Lingle, Wagner and Yakoubian filed a complaint in this Court on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated alleging claims for (1) violation of California Business and Professions Code § 17200, (2) violation of California Business and Professions Code § 17500, (3) violation of California Civil Code § 1750, (4) violations of other states' unfair and deceptive acts and practices laws, (5) violation of California Civil Code § 1792 (the "Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act"), (6) violation of 15 U.S.C. § 2301 (the "Magnuson-Moss Act"), (7) breach of express warranty and (8) breach of implied warranty. These Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint on November 18, 2008, realleging the same claims for relief.

On December 12, 2008, Plaintiffs Markee and Gor filed a complaint in this Court on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated alleging the same claims as Plaintiffs Lingle, Wagner and Yakoubian, with the exception of the breach of implied warranty claim. On August 24, 2010, Plaintiffs Braswell and Gilbert filed a complaint in this Court on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated alleging the same claims as Plaintiffs Lingle, Wagner and Yakoubian. All three cases have been consolidated before this Court.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs move to certify a class "consisting of all persons who purchased, in the United States, a Hitachi LCD Rear Projection Television" of certain make and model. (Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Mot. at 1.) Plaintiffs also seek to certify a subclass "for all those pursuing claims under California's Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act consisting of all persons who purchased a Television in California[.]" (Id.) Plaintiffs assert the proposed classes satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and 23(b)(3). Defendants question whether Plaintiffs' counsel is adequate to represent the class, but their primary argument is that Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the requirements of Rule 23(b)(3).

A. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) states:

One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members only if:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;

(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;

(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and

(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interest of the class. Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a).

A showing that these requirements are met, however, does not warrant class certification. Plaintiff must also show that one of the requirements of Rule 23(b) is met. Here, Plaintiffs rely on Rule 23(b)(3), which requires the court to find: that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy. The matters pertinent to these findings include:

(A) the class members' interest in individually controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions;

(B) the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the controversy already begun by or against class members;

(C) the desirability or undesirability of concentrating the litigation of the claims in the particular forum; and

(D) the likely difficulties in managing a ...


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