After a two-year wait, checks will finally be in the mail next week for claimants of the LCD class-action lawsuit.
For the past seven years, more than 100 law firms around the country have worked to punish manufacturers of liquid crystal displays, the most common type of flat panel for computers and TVs, that were found to have illegally fixed prices between 1999 and 2006. The nine makers of LCD panels were ordered to repay $1.1 billion to consumers and small businesses, the largest antitrust settlement of its kind.
Nationwide, more than 233,000 checks will be mailed to consumers and businesses in 24 states. Claimants will get $43.49 per monitor or laptop and $86.98 per TV.
The checks add up to about $707.4 million after attorney's fees, attorney general redress programs and costs, said Robin Niemiec, client services director at Rust Consulting in Minneapolis, which distributes the checks.
In Minnesota, more than 29,000 consumers and small businesses will be splitting $17 million on more than 471,500 panels claimed. More people from Minnesota applied for the money than from any other state except California.
Consumers had until Dec. 6, 2013, to file their claim on the number of LCD TVs, laptops and monitors purchased during the seven-year period.
The LCD class action is unique for several reasons. It is twice as large as the next-largest settlement, according to attorney Joe Alioto, who helped lead the case against the manufacturers in San Francisco. But it was also one of the most consumer-friendly settlements. Most class actions require consumers to produce proof-of-purchase receipts or documents, model numbers and serial numbers. For their effort, they're usually rewarded with a discount in a future purchase.
Dan Shulman, an attorney at the Minneapolis law firm Gray Plant Mooty, said that this class action had a lot going for it besides a big payoff. "The evidence against the manufacturers was amazing," he said. "These guys met monthly for six years to decide on prices and three of the companies kept minutes on everything. They had nowhere to go."
Shulman described the seven-year battle as prolonged. He made nearly a dozen trips to Asia and his firm put in $3.5 million of their time and nearly $1 million in out-of-pocket costs. The law firms will get about $300 million of the settlement, including about $14 million to Gray Plant Mooty and $15 million to Minneapolis firm Gustafson Gluek.
Companies named in the suit include Hitachi, Sharp, Toshiba, Samsung, LG, AU Optronics, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, HannStar Display Corp., and Chi Mei Optoelectronics.
Gloria Ross of Minneapolis, who sent in her claim nearly two years ago, said she's thrilled that she's finally getting her check, but has no idea how much she's getting. "It's been so long I can't remember how many panels I claimed," she said, laughing.
Minnesotans shouldn't have to wait long after Tuesday to get their checks, Niemiec said. They're being mailed from Eden Prairie.
Claimants who don't receive a check can go to www.lcdclass.com to check on a claim.