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Il Fornaio Corporation v. Lazzari Fuel Co., LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 27, 2014

IL FORNAIO (AMERICA) CORPORATION, OLIVETO PARTNERS, LTD., and THE FAMOUS ENTERPRISE FISH COMPANY OF SANTA MONICA, INC., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
LAZZARI FUEL COMPANY, LLC, CALIFORNIA CHARCOAL AND FIREWOOD, INC., and CHEF'S CHOICE MESQUITE CHARCOAL, Defendants. DARBAR CUISINE, INC., on behalf of itself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
CHEF'S CHOICE MESQUITE CHARCOAL, LAZZARI FUEL COMPANY LLC, CALIFORNIA CHARCOAL AND FIREWOOD, INC., and WILLIAM W. LORD, Defendants.

ORDER APPOINTING ELIZABETH C. PRITZKER OF PRITZKER § LAW AS INTERIM COUNSEL AND CONSOLIDATING CASES FOR ALL PURPOSES

WILLIAM ALSUP, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

In two putative antitrust class actions involving mesquite charcoal, there are dueling motions for the appointment of interim counsel. For the reasons stated below, this order APPOINTS Elizabeth C. Pritzker of Pritzker § Law as INTERIM COUNSEL. The two actions are also hereby CONSOLIDATED for all purposes, including trial.

STATEMENT

Defendants are distributors of Mesquite Lump Charcoal for commercial food preparation and restaurant use in the United States. Mesquite charcoal is a charcoal made from the mesquite tree which grows primarily in Mexico and is often used for grilling foods ( Il Fornaio Compl. ¶¶ 2, 3, 23).

In May 2012, the Department of Justice charged William W. Lord, owner of defendant Chef's Choice Mesquite Charcoal, in criminal antitrust proceedings ( Il Fornaio Compl. ¶ 43; Darbar Compl. ¶ 3). In June 2012, William Lord pled guilty to the charges, paid a $100, 000 fine, and served a four-month prison term ( Il Fornaio Compl. ¶¶ 6, 41, 52; Darbar Compl. ¶ 3).

On November 2013, proposed interim counsel Pritzker § Law (and co-counsel Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP) filed a 23-page putative class action complaint against three defendants, alleging "at least a ten-year conspiracy to fix, raise and/or stabilize prices, and allocate the market and customers in the United States for Mesquite Lump Charcoal" in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. Il Fornaio (America) Corp., et al. v. Lazzari Fuel Company, LLC, et al., No. 3:13-cv-05197-WHA (N.D. Cal. Nov. 7, 2013). The following class was proposed:

All persons in the United States who purchased Mesquite Lump Charcoal directly from any Defendant, and/or their subsidiaries and co-conspirators, during the period from and including January 2000 through at least September 30, 2011 (the Class Period').

( Il Fornaio Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8, 85).

Eight days later, proposed interim counsel Saveri & Saveri, Inc. (and co-counsel Bonsignore & Brewer) filed a nine-page class action complaint against the same three defendants and individual William W. Lord, alleging the same antitrust violations. Darbar Cuisine, Inc. v. Chef's Choice Mesquite Charcoal, et al., No. 3:13-cv-05331-WHA (N.D. Cal. Nov. 15, 2013). The following class was proposed:

All individuals and entities, who, during the period from approximately January 1, 2000 through at least September 30, 2010 (the Class Period'), purchased mesquite charcoal in the United States directly from the Defendants, their subsidiaries or their co-conspirator. Excluded from the Class are Defendants and their parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, all governmental entities, and co-conspirators.

( Darbar Compl. ¶ 13).

A November 2013 order by Magistrate Judge Corley related the two actions. On January 10, 2014, both actions were reassigned to the undersigned judge. January 2014 notices provided the factors to be evaluated for any proposed class settlement ( Il Fornaio, Dkt. No. 29, Darbar, Dkt. No. 28).

On January 22, plaintiffs in Il Fornaio moved for the appointment of Elizabeth C. Pritzker of Pritzker § Law as interim counsel to act on behalf ...


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