Flextronics’ Claims Allowed to Stand in Hard Drive Disk Antitrust MDL

In a six-page opinion, Judge Maxine M. Chesney denied the electronics manufacturer defendants’ bid to end plaintiff Flextronics International USA Inc.’s price fixing suit. The court ruled that Flextronics’ claims were timely over contentions that it should have known about the suit earlier and thus, that the statute of limitations for its California and Tennessee claims began to run earlier.

The court rehashed the allegations made in Flextronics’ May-filed amended complaint, including the alleged conspiracy. As previously reported, nearly a dozen Chinese, Japanese, and Thai hard disk drive (HDD) suspension assembly manufacturers and sellers have been accused of fixing the price for the hardware from as early as 2003 to April 2016.

Flextronics alleges that it bought HDD suspension assemblies indirectly, from Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital, which purchased the respective HDD products directly from the defendants. Its complaint stated antitrust claims under California and Tennessee law, which have four and three year statutes of limitation, respectively.

The defendants’ motion to dismiss countered that based on four documents pertaining to actions taken by the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) and articles reporting about a statement made by Hutchinson Technology Inc. (HTI), one of the defendants, Flextronics should have been on inquiry notice of its claims earlier.

The court agreed with Flextronics’ opposing argument, that based on the states’ discovery rules, the plaintiffs lacked sufficient facts to cause the limitations periods to begin running.

Judge Chesney said that the documents were insufficient to put Flextronics on notice of its claims because they were not specific enough and instead pertained to a JFTC investigation and a DOJ antitrust probe with regard to HTI. “Further, even if any of the above four articles, either separately or in combination, would cause a reasonable reader to suspect price-fixing, defendants fail to show what information Flex would have discovered had it made further inquiry at that time,” the opinion added.

Lastly, Judge Chesney noted that where courts have found a plaintiff was on “inquiry notice” of its claims based on publicly available information, the information relied upon had been highly publicized. “Here, at the pleading stage, there is nothing before the Court to suggest either the JFTC’s investigation or the DOJ’s investigation was publicized beyond the articles and press release cited by defendants,” the opinion reasoned. Flextronics is represented by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.