In a unanimous ruling, the court said a lawsuit filed by Mississippi
on behalf of citizens should not be viewed as a class action,
meaning it cannot be moved to federal court.
Defendants generally prefer facing such litigation in federal court,
which is viewed as less friendly to plaintiffs.
South Carolina and Mississippi are among 13 states that have sued
various manufacturers, including AU Optronics Corp <2409.TW>, LG
Display Co Ltd <034220.KS> and LG Electronics Inc <066570.KS>.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote on behalf of the court that the case
did not constitute a "mass action" under the 2005 Class Action
Fairness Act, a law that made it easer for corporate defendants to
move cases to federal court.
Although Mississippi was suing on behalf of its citizens, it is the
only plaintiff, she said.
The states seek restitution over an alleged conspiracy among the
companies to fix prices, which has been the subject of a criminal
probe and multiple lawsuits.
Legal reforms, including the Class Action Fairness Act, have
increasingly shifted class actions to federal court. At the same
time, the Supreme Court has tightened up the rules for what class
action claims can go forward in federal court.
[to top of second column]
Lawyers representing businesses say there is a growing trend of
class action-type cases being brought in the name of state attorneys
As in the Optronics case, plaintiffs' lawyers, working on a
contingency fee basis, join with the state to pursue a case in more
plaintiff-friendly state courts that might otherwise be heard in
Mississippi's supporters, including the consumer advocacy group
Public Citizen, counter that defense lawyers are trying to shoehorn
state attorney general actions into the Class Action Fairness Act
when in reality the law does not apply to such cases.
The case is Mississippi v. AU Optronics Corp, U.S. Supreme Court,
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing
by Will Dunham and Andrew Hay)
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