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LCD price-fixing case goes back to federal court

A Mississippi federal court will hear Mississippi’s lawsuit that alleges price fixing by manufacturers of liquid crystal display screens.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that sent the case to a state court.

“Nothing we have said denies the State of Mississippi the right to proceed with this case. It will simply proceed in federal, not state, court,” the panel said.

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.

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

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 5th Circuit panel, in a ruling Wednesday, said: “At its core, this case practically can be characterized as a kind of class action in which the State of Mississippi is the class representative.”

“After analyzing the complaint, the relevant statutes … we hold that the real parties in interest in this suit include both the State and individual consumers of LCD products. Because it is undisputed that there are more than 100 consumers, we find that there are more than 100 claims at issue in this case,” the panel said.

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