Judicial Panel Grants Defense Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, Unopposed by Class Action Plaintiffs, but Orders Class Actions Transferred to Eastern District of Wisconsin, Where none of the Class Actions had been Filed
Twenty-three (23) class actions were filed in 18 federal district courts against numerous defendants, including inter alia Sears, Roebuck and Co., Deere & Co., Kawasaki Motors, and The Kohler Co.; the class action complaints alleged “manufacturers of lawnmowers and/or lawnmower engines conspired to materially overstate and/or fraudulently advertise the horsepower produced by their lawnmower products.” In re Lawnmower Engine Horsepower Marketing & Sales Prac. Litig. (No. II), ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. December 5, 2008) [Slip Opn., at 1, 2]. An additional 16 class action lawsuits were filed that were treated as potential tag-along actions, id., at 1 n.2. Ten of the defendants filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in either the Southern or Northern District of Illinois; all responding parties supported centralization of the class actions, but variously sought transfer to Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, Ohio, or Texas. Id. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits, id., at 1-2. However, the Panel not only rejected the transferee courts proposed by the moving or responding parties, but ordered all of the class action lawsuits transferred to the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Id., at 2. None of the class actions had been filed in that district, or even in that State, but the Judicial Panel concluded that, given the number of different districts in which the lawsuits were pending, “many districts would be an appropriate transferee forum” and that the Eastern District of Wisconsin had the capacity to oversee the litigation and was centrally located given that “[the] parties and witnesses are clustered in various Midwestern states.” Id.