Friday, September 6, 2019
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the approval of a $19.5 million settlement of a class action against Sony over its alleged participation in an industry-wide conspiracy to fix prices of lithium ion batteries, spurning the contention of an objector that the amount is paltry when contrasted with the company’s potential liability of $177 million.
In a memorandum opinion filed Wednesday, a three-judge panel—comprised of Senior Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins and Circuit Judges M. Margaret McKeown and Jay Bybee—rejected an array of arguments by class member Christopher Andrews, his chief contention being that Sony is paying too little.
The opinion in the case, Young v. Andrews, 17-15795, quotes the Ninth Circuit’s 1998 decision in Linney v. Cellular Alaska Partnership as saying that a “proposed settlement is not to be judged against a hypothetical or speculative measure of what might have been achieved.”
Trial Judge Quoted
It also quotes the District Court judge who presided over the case—Yvonne Gonzalez Roger of the Northern District of California—as declaring that the “possibility that a settlement could have been greater does not mean that it is not fair and reasonable, in light of the countervailing litigation risks present.”
Wednesday’s opinion remarks:
“Andrews does not analyze those risks or otherwise demonstrate why a higher settlement amount was warranted.”
Sony, in 2016, became the first of the battery-makers to enter into a settlement with the class, denominated “Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs”; Samsung was the last, agreeing in July to pay $39.5 million, the highest amount to which any of the settling defendants agreed to pay.
$113.45 Million Settlement
In all, payments will amount to $113.45 million. Of that sum, the attorneys for the class seek $34 million.
The class is comprised, in general, of persons who, between Jan. 1, 2000 and May 31, 2011 purchased, anywhere in the United States, for personal use, specified types of products containing lithium-ion batteries.
In light of the numerousness of class members who have filed claims, no individual member stands to collect any meaningful amount. A July 12 status report filed by attorneys for the class sets forth:
“As of July 9, 2019, approximately 1,027,423 claimants have submitted claims against the settlements with the SDI, Toshiba, TOKIN, Panasonic/Sanyo, Hitachi Maxell, NEC Corporation, LG Chem, and Sony defendants. These claims are comprised of approximately 23,483,032 PC/laptops, 15,994,135 mobile devices, 3,775,618 camcorders, and 9,958,089 cordless power tools. Currently, the estimated per-device claim against the Sony settlement is $0.22; the estimated per-device claim for the SDI, Toshiba, TOKIN, Panasonic/Sanyo, Hitachi Maxell, NEC Corporation, and LG Chem settlements is approximately $1.52.”
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