Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kleen Products LLC v. International Paper Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 4, 2016

Kleen Products LLC, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
International Paper Company, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

          Argued December 8, 2015

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 10 C 5711 - Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge.

          Before Wood, Chief Judge, and Bauer and Williams, Circuit Judges.

          WOOD, Chief Judge.

         The antitrust laws prohibit competing economic actors from colluding to agree on prices, either directly or through such mechanisms as output restrictions. See United States v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., 310 U.S. 150 (1940); Palmer v. BRG of Georgia, Inc., 498 U.S. 46 (1990). That is just what the plaintiffs in the case before us allege the producers and sellers of containerboard did. The plaintiff-purchasers filed this suit under Sherman Act § 1, 15 U.S.C. § 1, seeking to recover treble damages for the overcharges they allegedly paid. See Clayton Act § 4, 15 U.S.C. § 15. What brings the case before us at this time-well before the merits have been resolved-is the district court's decision to certify a nationwide class of purchasers under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The defendants, International Paper Company, Georgia-Pacific LLC, Temple-Inland Inc., RockTenn CP, LLC, and Weyerhauser Company (to whom we will refer collectively as Defendants unless the context requires otherwise), asked us to accept this interlocutory appeal from the certification decision pursuant to Rule 23(f). We agreed to do so. Finding no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision, however, we affirm.


         The Purchasers allege in their complaint that the defendant companies agreed "to restrict the supply of container-board by cutting capacity, slowing back production, taking downtime, idling plants, and tightly restricting inventory." These actions predictably led to an increase in the price of con-tainerboard-a price increase that caused Purchasers to pay more for containerboard products than they would have paid in the absence of the illegal agreement. The named plaintiff on the complaint is Kleen Products LLC. It asked the district court to certify the following class:

All persons that purchased Containerboard Products directly from any of the Defendants or their subsidiaries or affiliates for use or delivery in the United States from at least as early as February 15, 2004 through November 8, 2010.

         The proposed definition carved out the defendants themselves, entities or personnel related to them, and governmental entities. The Defendants opposed class certification on a number of grounds: whether common questions predominate; whether antitrust injury can be proved using a common method; whether the amount of damages can be proved using a common method; and whether a class action is superior.

         As the Supreme Court emphasized in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338 (2011), "Rule 23 does not set forth a mere pleading standard. A party seeking class certification must affirmatively demonstrate his compliance with the Rule ... ." Id. at 350. We must therefore take a careful look at the evidence that the Purchasers presented in support of class certification as we assess the district court's ruling. Some of that evidence was provided by experts, but at this stage we need say little about them, because no defendant challenged the Purchasers' experts under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 or the Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). See Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, 136 S.Ct. 1036, 1049 (2016) (where there is no Daubert challenge, district court may rely on expert evidence for class certification). The district court also pointed out that "[f]or the most part, the parties agree on the basic facts, and both parties' experts rely upon the same data, so there are little if any factual disputes that the Court must resolve to decide class certification." For that reason, the court concluded that there was no need for a comprehensive evidentiary hearing. This, in our view, was a case-management decision that we have no reason to second-guess, despite Defendants' complaints. See American Honda Motor Co. v. Allen, 600 F.3d 813, 815 (7th Cir. 2010) (evidentiary hearing should be held "if necessary"); West v. Prudential Sec, Inc., 282 F.3d 935, 938 (7th Cir. 2002) (same).

         Two final points are worth making before we turn to the evidence. First, nothing in Wal-Mart changed the applicable standard of review, which is deferential (as the cases say, only for "abuse of discretion"). Messner v. Northshore Univ. HealthSystem, 669 F.3d 802, 811 (7th Cir. 2012). Second, it remains true that Rule 23 does not demand that every issue be common; classes are routinely certified under Rule 23(b)(3) where common questions exist and predominate, even though other individual issues will remain after the class phase. See, e.g., McMahon v. LVNV Funding, 807 F.3d 872, 875-76 (7th Cir. 2015); Pella Corp. v. Saltzman, 606 F.3d 391, 393 (7th Cir. 2010).


         Although the requirements for class certification under Rule 23 are familiar, we set out the critical sections of the rule here for ease of reference:

(a) Prerequisites. One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.