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Federal Court Denies Class Certification Predicated On Bogosian Theory Of Common Impact Injury

Posted In Class Actions

American Seed Co., Inc. v. Monsanto Company, Civ. No. 05-535-SLR, 2006 WL 3276831 (D. Del. Nov. 13, 2006).

Plaintiffs brought a class action alleging that the defendant and its subsidiaries illegally maintained monopolistic practices in four product markets by driving competing biotechnology corn products out of the market through illegal financial incentives and bundled rebate programs. These programs allegedly enabled the defendants to charge monopoly prices to farmers and retailers.

Plaintiffs sought to certify three categories of classes pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3): (1) a group of national direct purchasers of the products whose claims would be brought under federal antitrust law; and (2) groups of purchasers in Iowa and Minnesota, with claims under their respective state laws. The plaintiffs further identified various subclasses within each class on the basis of certain characteristics of the corn products purchased. The Court examined the challenges connected with the procedural requirements under R.23(a) in a detailed manner. First, the Court noted that if the plaintiffs were not direct purchasers of the corn seed, they may not be proper representatives of the national direct purchasers' class nor under the plaintiffs’ own definitions of class member. Second, the Court further noted that if the plaintiffs were direct purchasers, they may still not have suffered direct injury if they passed on the excess charges to their customers. However, because the Court denied certification on alternate grounds – namely under R. 23(a)(2) and (3) - it declined to address the standing issues.  

The plaintiffs primarily relied on their expert witness to prove that common questions predominated in this case and they advanced the Bogosian presumption to demonstrate common impact injury, citing In re Linerboard Antitrust Litig., 305 F.3d 145, 151 (3d Cir. 2002)(in turn citing Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Co., 561 F.2d 434, 455 (3d Cir. 1977)). To this end they advanced their expert’s damage formulas for the dual purpose of damage measurement and common injury. The Court however rejected the plaintiffs’ claim because they did not furnish any factual basis demonstrating how the expert’s formulas could provide proof on damages and common injury. This is because the Bogosian presumption of impact requires additional evidence of class-wide impact to sustain class certification. In short, the Court rejected the plaintiffs’ expert’s common impact theory because it was not factually supported. Accordingly, the Court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.



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