In re Senders, Master File No. 12–md–02311.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
Writing for the CourtMARIANNE O. BATTANI
Citation29 F.Supp.3d 982
PartiesIn re: AUTOMOTIVE PARTS ANTITRUST LITIGATION. In re: Fuel Senders. This Document Relates to: Dealership Actions, End–Payor Actions.
Docket Number2:12–cv–00303.,Master File No. 12–md–02311.,Nos. 2:12–cv–00302
Decision Date03 July 2014

29 F.Supp.3d 982

In re: Fuel Senders.
This Document Relates to: Dealership Actions, End–Payor Actions.

Master File No. 12–md–02311.
Nos. 2:12–cv–00302, 2:12–cv–00303.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division.

Signed July 3, 2014

Motion granted in part and denied in part.

[29 F.Supp.3d 990]

Adam T. Schnatz, E. Powell Miller, The Miller Law Firm, Alyson L. Oliver, Rochester, MI, Anna M. Horning Nygren, W. Joseph Bruckner, Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P., Minneapolis, MN, Bernard Persky, Hollis L. Salzman, William Reiss, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., New York, NY, Brendan H. Frey, Mantese Honigman Rossman & Williamson, P.C., David F. Hansma, Mantese and Rossman, Gerard V. Mantese, Mantese Assoc., Troy, MI, Darryl Bressack, David H. Fink, Fink Associates Law, Bloomfield Hills, MI, Douglas A. Abrahams, Kohn, Swift and Graf, P.C., Jonathan M. Jagher, Spector Roseman Kodroff & Willis, P.C., Joseph C. Kohn, William E. Hoese, Kohn, Swift, Philadelphia, PA, Marc M. Seltzer, Susman Godfrey, L.L.P., Los Angeles, CA, Sheldon L. Miller, Farmington Hills, MI, for Fuel Senders.

MARIANNE O. BATTANI, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Collective Motion to the Dismiss End–Payor Plaintiff' Consolidated Amended Complaint and the Automobile Dealer Plaintiff' Consolidated Class Complaint (Doc. Nos. 88 (sealed) and 89, Exhibit 1 (redacted) in 12–302 and Doc. Nos. 55 (sealed) and 56 (redacted) in 12–303). Automobile Dealer Plaintiff and End–Payor Plaintiff (collectively “Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs” or “IPPs”) bring class actions against Defendants under federal and state law based on Defendants' alleged conspiracy to rig bids, fix prices, and allocate the market for Fuel Senders. Although the IPPs filed separate complaints, Defendants analyze the complaints together for purposes of this motion, and the Court does the same.

The Court heard oral argument on the motion on February 12, 2014, and at the conclusion of the argument, took this matter under advisement. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


On February 7, 2012, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“Judicial Panel” or “Panel”) transferred actions sharing “factual questions arising out of an alleged conspiracy to inflate, fix, raise, maintain, or artificially stabilize prices of automotive wire harness systems” to the Eastern District of Michigan. (12–md–02311, Doc. No. 2). In its transfer order, the Judicial Panel noted that the majority of cases were pending in the Eastern District, as was the first filed action, that several defendants were located in this district, and that a related criminal investigation was underway in this district. ( Id.) The Panel determined that centralizing litigation in this District would eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve resources. ( Id.) After complaints were

[29 F.Supp.3d 991]

filed alleging conspiracies to fix prices of three additional component parts, the Judicial Panel determined that including all actions in MDL No. 2311 would result in the most efficient handling of the case. The Judicial Panel noted the existence of similar conspiracies with overlapping defendants arising from the same government investigation as well as an overlap of parties and counsel. The additional component part cases were transferred to this Court for coordinated pretrial proceedings, and In re: Automotive Wire Harness Systems Antitrust Litigation was renamed In re: Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation. (Doc. No. 117 in 12–2311). There are now twenty-nine component part cases pending.

On February 28, 2013, Automobile Dealer Purchaser Plaintiffs filed their Consolidated Class Complaint (Doc. No. 39, Ex. A (redacted) in 12–302, Doc. No. 40 (sealed)), and End–Payor Plaintiffs filed their Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint (Doc. Nos. 46 in 12–203 (redacted) and 47 (sealed)). Defendants assert that the Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs' complaints fail to meet the minimum requirements for pleading an antitrust conspiracy, that they lack standing to bring antitrust claims, and their state law claims must be dismissed on a variety of grounds.


Defendants are manufacturers or sellers of Fuel Senders that are manufactured or sold in the United States. In their motion, they challenge the complaints alleging conspiracy to fix prices on products filed by two different groups of plaintiffs—automobile dealers and end-payors. The Automobile Dealer Plaintiffs (“ADPs”), including Martens Cars of Washington, Inc., Landers Auto Group No. 1, Inc. d/b/a Landers Toyota, Hammett Motor Company, Inc., Superstore Automotive, Inc., Lee Pontiac–Oldsmobile GMC Truck, Inc., Westfield Dodge City, Inc., V.I.P. Motor Cars Ltd., Desert European Motorcars, Ltd., Landers McLarty Fayetteville TN, LLC, Dale Martens Nissan Subaru, Inc., Green Team of Clay Center Inc., McGrath Automotive Group, Inc., Table Rock Automotive, Inc. d/b/a Todd Archer Hyundai, Archer–Perdue, Inc. d/b/a Archer–Perdue Suzuki, Landers McLarty Lee's Summit, MO, LLC d/b/a Lee's Summit Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, and d/b/a Lee's Summit Nissan, Bonneville and Son, Inc., Holzhauer Auto and Truck Sales, Inc., Pitre, Inc. d/b/a Pitre Buick GMC, Patsy Lou Chevrolet, Inc., John Greene Chrysler Dodge Jeep, LLC, SLT Group II, Inc. d/b/a Planet Nissan Subaru of Flagstaff, Herb Hallman Chevrolet, Inc. d/b/a Champion Chevrolet, Charles Daher's Commonwealth Motors, Inc. d/b/a Commonwealth Chevrolet, Commonwealth Kia, Commonwealth Honda, Commonwealth Volkswagen d/b/a Commonwealth Volkswagen, Commonwealth Nissan, Inc. d/b/a Commonwealth Nissan, Ramey Motors, Inc., Thornhill Superstore, Inc. d/b/a Thornhill GM Superstore, Dave Heather Corporation d/b/a Lakeland Toyota Honda Mazda Subaru, Central Salt Lake Valley GMC Enterprises, LLC d/b/a Salt Lake Valley Buick GMC, Capitol Chevrolet Cadillac, Inc., Capitol Dealerships, Inc. d/b/a Capitol Toyota, Beck Motors, Inc., Stranger Investments d/b/a Stephen Wade Toyota, John O' Neil Johnson Toyota, LLC, Hartley Buick GMC Truck, Inc., Lee Oldsmobile–Cadillac, Inc. d/b/a Lee Honda, Lee Auto Malls–Topsham, Inc. d/b/a Lee Toyota of Topsham, Landers of Hazelwood, LLC d/b/a Landers Toyota of Hazelwood, Cannon Chevrolet–Oldsmobile–Cadillac–Nissan, Inc., Cannon Nissan of Jackson, LLC, Hudson Charleston Acquisition, LLC d/b/a Hudson Nissan, Shearer Automotive Enterprises III, Inc., and Apex Motor Corporation, filed their Consolidated Class Complaint on behalf of

[29 F.Supp.3d 992]

themselves and all others similarly situated. In their proposed class action, Automobile Dealer Plaintiffs allege that the manufacturers and suppliers of Fuel Senders in “a lengthy conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition ... by agreeing to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize, and maintain the prices of these products....” (Doc. No. 37 at ¶¶ 1, 3).

In their Corrected Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint, End–Payor Plaintiffs (“EPPs”) Tom Halverson, Sophie O'Keefe–Selman, Stephanie Petras, Melissa Barron, John Hollingsworth, Meetesh Shah, Michael Tracy, Jane Taylor, Keith Uehara, Jennifer Chase, Darrel Senior, James Marean, Ron Blau, Nilsa Mercado, Darcy Sherman, David Bernstein, Ellis Winston McInnis, IV, Thomas Wilson, Lauren Primos, Robert Klingler, Jessica DeCastro, Virginia Pueringer, Nathan Croom, Richard Stoehr, Edward Muscara, Michael Wick, Tenisha Burgos, Jason Grala, Kathleen Tawney, Kelly Klosterman, Cindy Prince, Paul Gustaon, France Gammell–Roach, William Dale Picotte, Phillip Young, Jesse Powell, Alena Farrell, Janne Rice, Robert Rice, Stacey Nickell, and Carol Ann Kashishian, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, bring a class action arising out of Defendants' conspiracy to fix, raise, maintain, and/or stabilize prices, rig bids and allocate the market and customers in the United States for Fuel Senders.” (Doc. No. 46 at ¶¶ 1, 3).

Both Automobile Dealer Plaintiffs and End–Payor Plaintiffs bring their actions under Section 16 of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. § 26) to secure equitable and injunctive relief against Defendants for violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. § 1). They also assert claims for actual and exemplary damages pursuant to state antitrust, consumer protection, and unjust enrichment laws, and seek to obtain restitution, recover damages, and secure other relief against Defendants for violations of the laws of various states. Both groups obtained Fuel Senders as a result of buying or leasing vehicles or purchasing stand-alone Fuel Senders for repair purposes.

Defendants are manufacturers, marketers, and sellers of Fuel Senders, which “measure the amount of fuel in a vehicle's fuel tank.” (Doc. No. 39 at ¶¶ 3, 4; Doc. No. 46 at ¶¶ 2, 4). Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs identify two groups of Defendants: the Denso group (Doc. No. 39 at ¶¶ 110–113; Doc. No. 46 at ¶¶ 66–68), which includes Denso Corporation and Denso International America, Inc., and the Yazaki group, which includes Yazaki Corporation and Yazaki North America, Inc. (Doc. No. 39 at ¶¶ 107–109; Doc. No. 46 at ¶ 64–65).

Original equipment manufacturers (“OEM”) install Fuel Senders into new cars as part of the manufacturing process. Fuels Senders are also installed in cars to replace worn out, defective, or damaged Fuel Senders. (Doc. No. 39 at ¶ 117; Doc. No. 46 at ¶ 73). As part of the Fuel Sender purchasing process, OEMs issue Requests for Quotation (“RFQs”) to automotive parts suppliers, who in turn, submit quotations, or bids to the OEMs. (Doc. No. 39 at ¶ 119; Doc. No. 46 at ¶ 75). OEMs typically award the business to the selected automotive parts supplier for four to six years based upon the bidding process, which is...

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