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LCD Case Poised For Trial
2013-07-22 05:57:18 PM
SAN FRANCISCO — The latest trial over price-fixing in the market for TFT-LCD screens is getting underway before a federal judge who has been enmeshed for years in the sprawling and complicated case.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who gave lawyers some stern advice at a pretrial hearing earlier this month, seated a 10-member jury Monday, setting the stage for opening statements to begin Tuesday.
This is the fourth LCD price-fixing trial Illston has presided over. Earlier this month, she placed a 50-hour time limit on each side and encouraged the parties to settle.
At least one company seems to have taken heed. Target Corp. notified Illston last week that it has reached agreements in principle with all the defendants.
With last minute settlements still shaking out, the trial looks to pit mega-retailer Best Buy Co. and now-bankrupt camera designer Eastman Kodak Co. against a trio of LCD screen manufacturers.
Plaintiffs accuse the screen makers of conspiring to fix prices for LCD panels and overcharging them more than $400 million between 1998 and 2006. They also seek nearly $4 billion in damages under the federal Sherman Antitrust Act and various state laws.
Best Buy is represented by a legal team from Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi led by L.A.-based partner Roman Silberfeld. Nixon Peabody partner Karl Belgum is leading Eastman Kodak's case. Crowell & Moring's Janet Levine represents Target.
On the defense side, Toshiba Corp.'s lead lawyer is White & Case partner Christopher Curran. Munger, Tolles & Olson is representing LG Display Co.; and Freitas Tseng & Kaufman is representing HannStar Display Corp. AU Optronics Corp., which had been part of the case, settled last week with Kodak.
Attorneys on both sides ended the day wrangling over the rules for Tuesday's opening statements.
The screen makers asked Illston to restrict what plaintiffs may tell jurors about criminal convictions and prior settlements related to price fixing in the LCD industry.
The defendants have already paid out hefty sums to settle civil class actions. And except for Toshiba, each has either admitted to or been convicted of criminal antitrust violations.
Illston drew the line at one plaintiff slide. However, she said she would allow plaintiffs to use the terms "a judgment of guilt" and "convicted" to describe the past criminal actions against the LCD makers.
The trial is expected to last roughly six weeks.
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