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Federal appeals panel to weigh LCD price-fixing lawsuit

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals panel will decide whether a Mississippi or federal court has jurisdiction over a lawsuit alleging price fixing by manufacturers of liquid crystal display screens.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral argument in New Orleans for Oct. 5.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood sued several major suppliers of LCD screens in Hinds County Chancery Court in March of 2011. Hood alleged in the lawsuit that consumers paid extra because of price fixing in violation of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act.

The lawsuit seeks damages, restitution and civil penalties for actions from 1996 to 2006 by companies in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, plus their U.S. counterparts.

In June of 2011, the companies had the case transferred to federal court. They argued that if a lawsuit resembled a purported class action that it should be considered a class action and be heard in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves this May ordered the case sent back to the Hinds County Chancery Court. Reeves said his court did not have jurisdiction because the case was not a class action and because federal law’s general public exception required it be returned to state court.

The companies appealed the ruling to the 5th Circuit.

The companies filed briefs in the case this past week. The attorney general’s office has a deadline of tomorrow to file a response.

The companies have paid out millions to settle class-action lawsuits and still face other lawsuits in the United States and around the world.

The U.S. government is wrapping up an investigation of the scheme that artificially increased the price of LCD screens used in televisions, computers and other electronics. The case involved at least 12 manufacturers.

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