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In re Cathode Ray Tube Antitrust Litigation

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 19, 2016



          JON S. TIGAR United States District Judge.


         Now before the Court are two motions for summary judgment asking the Court to dismiss Direct Action Purchaser (“DAP”) Costco’s state law claims on due process, ECF Nos. 3029 (“DP Mot.”), and choice-of-law grounds, ECF No. 2997 (“COL Mot.”). The parties submitted a consolidated Opposition, ECF No. 3264 (“Opp’n”), and consolidated Reply, 3469 (“Reply”), to both motions. Due to various settlements and dismissals after the filing of these motions, Costco’s California claims are the only remaining claims at issue. Oral argument was held on March 28, 2016. Defendants’ choice-of-law motion is GRANTED, and their due process motion is DENIED as MOOT.[1]

         II. FACTS

         The history of this case is well known to parties. By way of summation, this case is predicated upon an alleged conspiracy to price-fix cathode ray tubes (“CRTs”), a core component of tube-style screens for common devices including televisions and computer monitors. This conspiracy ran from March 1, 1995 to November 25, 2007 (the “Conspiracy Period”), involved many of the major companies that produced CRTs, and allegedly resulted in overcharges of billions of U.S. dollars to domestic companies that purchased and sold CRTs or products containing CRTs (“CRT Finished Products”) for purposes such as personal use. A civil suit was originally filed in 2007, ECF No. 1, consolidated by the Joint Panel on Multidistrict Litigation shortly thereafter, see ECF No. 122, assigned as a Multidistrict Litigation case (“MDL”) to Judge Samuel Conti, see id., and ultimately transferred to the undersigned, see ECF No. 4162.

         In addition to two class actions, this MDL involves various direct actions from individual plaintiffs who have opted out of the class actions. Each DAP alleges that it bought at least one CRT Finished Product from a Defendant or an entity owned or controlled by a Defendant. The DAPs, despite their moniker, are classified as indirect purchasers under antitrust law -- not direct purchasers. Defendants bring the instant motions against DAP Costco.

         Costco filed indirect purchaser claims under California law for CRT Finished Product purchases it made during the Conspiracy Period for its stores throughout the United States. Because Costco filed its lawsuit in Washington before the case was transferred to this Court, Washington’s choice-of-law rules apply. In re Nucorp Energy Sec. Litig., 772 F.2d 1486, 1492 (9th Cir. 1985) (holding that courts apply the choice-of-law rules of each state where the individual actions of an MDL were originally filed). Defendants argue in their choice-of-law motion that Washington’s choice-of-law rules dictate that Washington law should apply. Accordingly, they ask the Court to dismiss Costco’s California claims. In their due process motion, Defendants argue that Costco’s California claims should be dismissed for the independent reason that they violate due process. Insofar as Washington law applies, however, Defendants’ due process motion is moot.

         The instant motions turn on California’s and Washington’s respective contacts with the parties and the underlying transactions. In 1993, Costco merged with Price Club, a California company, and incorporated in Delaware. In 1999, however, Costco reincorporated in Washington. Costco’s headquarters were located in Washington throughout the Conspiracy Period, though Costco states that some executive offices were also located in California for an unspecified amount of time after the merger with Price Club.

         Costco’s purchases of CRT Finished Products started with a buyer located in its Washington headquarters who chose vendors and negotiated price, quantity, and time of delivery. Purchase orders were then created in and issued directly to the vendor from either Costco’s headquarters in Washington or Costco’s regional offices throughout the country. Once a purchase order was issued, the product was delivered directly to Costco’s depots or stores. Personnel at those locations signed the bill of lading or other shipping document and accepted delivery, at which point Costco’s payment obligation arose and title transferred. Payment was then remitted from Costco’s Washington headquarters.[2] Costco purchased and received more than four million CRT Finished Products for its California locations using this process, more than its stores in any other state.

         Although Defendants allegedly engaged in conspiratorial conduct throughout the world, Costco presents evidence that some of this activity occurred in California. For example, on June 20, 2000, San Diego-based HED(US) employee Yuri Mitsumoto circulated an email containing future production capacity plans of competitor American Matsushita Electronics Company. See ECF No. 3265-8, Ex. 29. In addition, on July 24, 2001, Mitsumoto sent HED(US) employee Tom Heiser an email confirming that he “talked with Samsung Chunghwa sales manager on the phone” and reported to Heiser the CRT pricing plans he had obtained. See ECF No. 3265-8, Ex. 28. Finally, Hirokazu Nishimaya from Panasonic testified that he exchanged “production information and capacity” with Hitachi employees at a trade-association meeting in La Quinta, California. ECF No. 3265-8, Ex. 32 at 508:20-514:13.


         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is proper when a “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by” citing to depositions, documents, affidavits, or other materials. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party also may show that such materials “do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). An issue is “genuine” only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact-finder to find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). A fact is “material” if the fact may affect the outcome of the case. Id. at 248. “In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations, and is required to draw all inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). However, unsupported conjecture or conclusory statements do not create a genuine dispute as to material fact and will not defeat summary judgment. Surrell v. Cal. Water Serv. Co., 518 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2008).

         For claims on which the defendant does not carry the ultimate burden of persuasion, defendant as the moving party has the burden of producing evidence that negates an essential element of each claim on which it seeks judgment or showing that the plaintiff cannot produce evidence sufficient to satisfy the burden of proof at trial. See Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos.,210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). If the moving party satisfies its initial burden of production, then the nonmoving party must produce admissible evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Id. at 1102-1103. The non-moving party must “identify with reasonable particularity the evidence that precludes summary judgment.” Keenan v. Allan,91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996). “Specific citations, not bulk references, are essential to pinpoint key facts and factual disputes. [A] district court [i]s not required to put the puzzle together from a boxful of facts, and . . . may permissibly decide the motion without mining [an] entire document for more substantiation” when a citation offers only a “breezy reference” to a part of an “82-page report” not otherwise cited or explained in briefing. Stanislaus Food Products Co. v. USS-POSCO Indus., 803 F.3d 1084, 1094-95 (9th Cir. Oct. 13, 2015). “A mere scintilla of evidence will not be sufficient to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment; rather, ...

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