Plaintiffs’ lawyers in a price-fixing case against computer memory manufacturers got dinged on Thursday with sanctions that will restrict their use of expert testimony.
Experts hired by lawyers representing people who bought products containing the memory — static random access memory, or SRAM — will not be able to use or refer to any data they got from outside sources before Jan. 29, when the lawyers filed their motion to certify a class of so-called “indirect purchaser” plaintiffs. The experts will also be barred from submitting any new opinions or analyses, and limited to rebutting their opponents’ theories, ruled federal District Judge Claudia Wilken.
The wages of "hiding the ball," after the jump.
The plaintiffs in the case include retailers and end-user buyers who sued a group of defendants who manufacture SRAM, including Samsung, Hitachi and NEC, alleging illegal price-fixing. The current controversy involves only the end-user, “indirect purchaser” plaintiffs.
Lawyers from Winston & Strawn representing the defendants argued that the plaintiffs, represented by Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason, had broken a March 2008 agreement that said that all data used by experts to reach their opinions would be turned over to the other side within three days of any expert reports. The defendants’ lawyers said they feared that the plaintiffs planned to reveal new data and expert testimony after the defense had opposed the initial certification motion, leaving them with no chance for another response.
Wilken appointed retired federal Judge Fern Smith as a special master to oversee the discovery dispute, which began when lawyers for the defendants became suspicious following the end-user plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.
Smith recommended the restrictions last month, following a hearing on April 9. Smith said that after seeing e-mail exchanges where the Winston & Strawn team repeatedly asked for data they were owed, “I did…think there was a little bit of ‘hide the ball’ going on about what the experts had,” according to a transcript of the hearing.
Wilken adopted Smith’s ruling on Thursday.
— Evan Hill