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Thousands file claims in monitor settlement

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT
  • Star Tribune
  • January 18, 2013 - 9:43 PM

Given an easy way to get $25 to $100 or more, Minnesotans responded in greater numbers than any other state except California.

Consumers had until Dec. 6 to file a class-action claim against nine LCD screen manufacturers such as Hitachi, LG, Sharp, Samsung and Toshiba, who were found guilty of price fixing.

Nearly 30,000 Minnesota consumers and small businesses filed claims on 471,578 panels. Minnesota is one of 24 states participating in the suit. Nationwide, more than 235,000 consumers and businesses made claims made on 10.5 million panels, even though several million Americans were potentially eligible to apply.

The amount of money that each consumer will get per screen is still being determined, but estimates range from about $65 for monitors and laptops to $125 for TVs, according to Alison Buckneberg, a communications specialist at Gray Plant Mooty in Minneapolis, one of a dozen law firms that managed the $1.1 billion settlement in a San Francisco court.

When the class-action was first announced, estimates ranged from $25 to $250. The suit covers flat-panel TVs, computer monitors and laptops purchased between January 1999 and December 2006.

Consumers who filed claims were originally told that refunds would be mailed in early 2013. It's still possible to meet that deadline if the suit clears several hurdles, said San Francisco attorney Joseph Alioto, who co-led the case against the manufacturers.

On Jan. 31, the U.S. District Court will have a hearing to approve the final part of the settlement. After attorneys' fees from nearly 100 law firms, Alioto estimates that the amount of the distribution for consumers and businesses will be $775 million.

Other factors that may delay the checks include verifying claims made by large businesses that are potentially getting millions of dollars, rejecting claims sent by claimants living in states not included in the settlement and handling objections to the settlement.

Alioto said the objections could cause a delay of two to three years, but he plans to ask the judge to allow claims to be processed despite the objections.

"Unless it's a substantial enough issue to delay, I will ask for an expedited distribution so that checks could be sent as soon as three months after the judge issues her order on January 31," he said.

The settlement is considered one of the most consumer-friendly class-action lawsuits in recent years. Since few consumers were expected to have receipts from purchases made six to 12 years ago, no proof of purchase was required, Alioto said.

Nor were consumers required to produce a manufacturer or model number, in case the item had been discarded. Many class-action suits only provide consumers a discount on a future purchase, but the LCD suit offered cash with the exact amount to be determined.

The $1.1 billion settlement is the largest-ever antitrust settlement for a class-action suit on behalf of people who bought a product from intermediaries such as retailers, wholesalers and distributors. "It's twice as big as the next-largest settlement," Alioto said.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633

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