Antitrust Law

Uh-oh. Did lead plaintiffs seeking $350M in Apple trial purchase iPods as required?

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Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Several days into the trial of a federal antitrust class action in which some 8 million iPod purchasers seek $350 million in damages from Apple Inc., a problem has arisen.

It isn’t clear that the two lead plaintiffs did, in fact, purchase devices at issue in the nearly 10-year-old case, reports the Associated Press. Forbes and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) also have stories.

“I am concerned that I don’t have a plaintiff. That’s a problem,” said U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in court on Thursday. She asked both sides to submit briefing on whether the trial should continue.

The trial, which is taking place in Oakland, California, had been expected to last nearly three weeks. If the jury sees the case the same way the plaintiffs and their lawyers do, it could result in a damages award of over $1 billion, if the amount sought is awarded and trebled.

An earlier post gives more details about the case. It contends Apple drove up the price of iPods by using software and upgrades that prevented competitors’ music from being played on the devices.

The suit concerns iPods purchased from Apple between September 2006 and March 2009. Hence, Apple lawyers complained when they checked the serial number on lead plaintiff Marianna Rosen’s iPod Touch after she testified on Wednesday and discovered it had been purchased in July 2009.

Attorneys for Apple say it appears the other lead plaintiff, Melanie Wilson, also may not have purchased a device relevant to the litigation and asked for proof that she and Rosen did.

The Bits page of the New York Times (reg. req.) provides a copy of the letter Apple’s counsel sent to the judge on Wednesday night challenging the lead plaintiffs’ iPod purchase claims.

The letter concludes with a request that opposing counsel provide as well “information on destruction of relevant records of class purchases.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs are looking for receipts. However, attorney Bonny Sweeney said some 8 million individuals did purchase the iPods at issue in the case and their rights need to be adjudicated.

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