NEW YORK (Reuters) — A federal judge in
New York granted class certification on Friday to a group of
consumers who sued Apple Inc for conspiring with five major
publishers to fix e-book prices in violation of antitrust law.
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said the plaintiffs had "more than
met their burden" to allow them to sue as a group. She rejected
Apple's contentions that the claims were too different from each
other, or that some plaintiffs were not harmed because some e-book
"This is a paradigmatic antitrust class action," wrote Cote, who has
scheduled a trial later this year to determine damages, which could
reach hundreds of millions of dollars.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
In July 2013, Cote found the technology company liable for colluding
with the publishers after a separate non-jury trial in a case
brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. Cote found that Apple
took part in a price-fixing conspiracy to fight online retailer
Amazon.com Inc's dominance in the e-book market.
Apple is appealing that decision.
Thirty-three states and U.S. territories have separately sued on
behalf of their consumers, while individual consumers in other
states and territories filed the class action lawsuit that Cote
addressed on Friday. The plaintiffs are seeking more than $800
million in damages.
The publishers previously agreed to settle related antitrust charges
for $166 million before trial.
Apple has asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out
Cote's ruling from last year, as well as her decision to appoint an
external monitor to oversee the company's antitrust compliance, a
move Apple has called "radical" in court filings.
The 2nd Circuit last month rejected Apple's request to halt the
monitor's oversight while its appeal is pending.
Cote on Friday also denied Apple's motion to exclude the opinions of
the plaintiffs' damages expert. In a separate ruling, Cote largely
threw out the opinions of Apple's two damages experts, saying they
were not based on "rigorous application of economic methods."
Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, the plaintiffs' lead
lawyer, said, "We are thrilled with the win."
The trial will likely take place in either July or September.
The consolidated case is In Re: Electronic Books Antitrust
Litigation, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New
York, No. 11-md-02293.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by Jonathan Oatis)