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Sixth Circuit, Enforcing Notice of Appeal Rule, Denies Challenge to $225M Auto Part Price Fixing Settlement

On Friday, the Sixth Circuit refused to overturn a $225 million settlement deal reached between end-payor plaintiffs and auto parts makers accused of price fixing. Two objectors to the deal had asked the court to review a June order by U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani granting final approval to settlement in 19 cases that were part of a sprawling multidistrict litigation. But they had filed an appeal in only one of those cases, pertaining to wire harnesses, which totaled $119 million. The panel held that the challenge could not proceed in the other 18 cases where no appeal had actually been filed, and thus dismissed the appeal to the extent that it raised issues related to the unappealed orders.

The objectors asserted it would amount to a denial of due process to require appeals in all 19 cases, which would have included fees totaling near $10,000. But the court noted that the appellants had offered no proof that paying those fees would impose an undue burden. There was no violation of due process, held the panel, where a party is required to pay a fee, or move for pauper status.

Similarly, the panel declared ineffective, and thus dismissed for lack for jurisdiction, an appeal filed in the master docket for the multidistrict litigation. Each case in the MDL, held the court, retains its individual identity, even if for efficiency purposes they are handled in a consolidated manner. In short, pay attention to the requirements for notices of appeal.

The cases arose out of an expansive MDL, which itself followed the U.S. Department of Justice’s launch of an ongoing investigation into the auto parts industry. The DOJ investigation has produced more than $2 billion in fines already. The government, and, in turn, private plaintiffs, have alleged that auto part makers and marketers conspired to raise prices charged to automakers, which in turn has increased the price of vehicles downstream to consumers.

© Copyright 2020 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 327


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