Following March price-fixing guilty plea, bunk heater manufacturer faces class action complaint

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Updated May 28, 2015

In March, bunk-heater manufacturer Espar, which has since renamed itself Eberspaecher, entered a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a suit that alleged the company participated in “a combination and conspiracy” with unnamed competitors and others “to suppress and eliminate competition in the sale of parking heaters [or ‘bunk heaters’] for commercial vehicles in the aftermarket by agreeing to fix, stabilize and maintain prices of parking heaters.”

The time period covered by the charges, a violation of portions of the Sherman Antitrust Act and to which the company pleaded guilty, cover the time period of Oct. 1, 2007, to Dec. 31, 2012.

You can access the plea agreement in full via this page on the Department of Justice website, and this page for more information.

With sentencing in that case just more than a week away in the U.S. District Court for Eastern New York, as many as five related complaints filed after the March plea agreement seek class action status, say representatives of the Hagens Berman law firm.  It filed the first such complaint on behalf of Iowa-based Raccoon Valley Transport, Illinois’ Audrius Labaciauskas and others similarly situated. The complaint alleges class members paid more “for [bunk heaters] than they would have paid in the absence of … antitrust violations.”

As the District Court considers the class action cases, Hagens Berman attorney Beth Fegan notes that the firm is seeking to be the lead counsel for indirect purchasers, those who purchased a heater through a distributor, dealership or other entity. “Indirect purchasers throughout the United States are entitled to injunctive relief under federal antitrust laws,” Fegan notes, “but cannot seek compensation under federal antitrust laws. Instead they can only seek compensation under laws in the limited number of states that have passed laws specifically permitting recovery for indirect purchasers.”

The Hagens complaint seeks “damages to [plaintiffs’] businesses and property in an amount to be determined at trial” for purchasers in and under the statutes of Arizona, California, D.C., Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

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The sentencing hearing in the Department of Justice case itself is set for June 5 at 2:30 p.m. in Courtroom 6C South of the U.S. Eastern District court at 225 Cadman Plaza East in Brooklyn.

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