Antitrust Law Daily Class settlement in titanium dioxide price-fixing case granted final approval
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Class settlement in titanium dioxide price-fixing case granted final approval

By Edward L. Puzzo, J.D.

The federal district court in San Jose, California has given final approval to a class settlement of antitrust claims against DuPont and others based on alleged price-fixing for titanium dioxide, a whitening agent used in architectural paint (Harrison v. E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., October 22, 2018, Freeman, B.).

Jan Harrison, on behalf of a putative class of indirect purchasers, brought claims against DuPont and others alleging a conspiracy among them to fix the price of titanium dioxide, an inorganic chemical used in the production of many goods including architectural paint for the purpose of whitening.

A settlement agreement was reached, and plaintiffs' motion for preliminary approval of the class action settlement was granted. The settlement was later amended to establish a "Damages Settlement Class" and an "Injunctive Relief Settlement Class." Plaintiffs now moved for final approval of the class action settlement and for attorney fees.

Class certification. As to whether the settlement met the Rule 23 (a) requirements for certification, the court found that (1) the numerosity requirement was met because nearly 33,000 valid claims had been received by the settlement administrator; (2) the commonality requirement was met because the key issue—whether the defendants conspired to fix the price of titanium dioxide—was the same for all class members; (3) the typicality requirement was met because the named plaintiffs, as purchasers of architectural paint, were typical of the class members; and (4) the adequacy of representatives requirement was met because the named plaintiffs and their counsel had no conflicts of interest and will zealously represent the interests of the class. The Rule 23 (b)(3) predominance requirement was also met in that questions of law and fact common to the class members predominated over those that only affected individual members, and a class action was superior to other available methods of adjudicating the controversy. Thus, the court concluded that the Rule 23 requirements in this case had been met.

The court further found that plaintiffs' plan for providing notice to the class was adequate, as shown by the fact that at least 70 percent of the targeted Internet users and millions of households were reached by the class notice. The settlement was also entitled to a presumption of correctness based on 4 years of litigation and discovery and arms-length negotiations. Based on these factors and considering the record as a whole as guided by the Hanlon factors, the court found that notice of the proposed settlement was adequate, the settlement was not the result of collusion, and the settlement was fair, adequate and reasonable. Therefore, the court granted final approval of the class action settlement.

Attorney fees. Plaintiffs also sought court approval of attorney fees of $750,000, representing 21 percent of the $3.5 million settlement fund. Under the percentage-of-recovery method of evaluating attorney fee requests, which commonly starts at the 25 percent benchmark, the request for attorney fees was quite reasonable, the court found. As the results were excellent, the court found no reason to reduce the fees and awarded the requested amount.

This case is No. 5:13-cv-01180-BLF.

Attorneys: Ben F. Pierce Gore (Pratt & Associates) for Jan Harrison. Beatrice B. Nguyen (Crowell & Moring LLP) for E.I DuPont De Nemours and Co. Christopher Walter James (Vinson and Elkins LLP) for Huntsman International, LLC. Paul Edward Coggins (Locke Lord LLP) for Kronos Worldwide, Inc.

Companies: E.I DuPont De Nemours and Co.; Huntsman International, LLC; Kronos Worldwide, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust CaliforniaNews

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