This case concerned a federal antitrust class action involving a proposed class of Class 8 truck purchasers who alleged a conspiracy by several truck transmission suppliers and manufacturers to raise prices by eliminating competition among the manufacturers. At the class certification stage, defendants moved to dismiss the named plaintiff for lack of standing since it was not a direct purchaser of the truck transmissions at issue. Two months later, the named plaintiff’s counsel filed two Rule 24 motions on behalf of new direct purchasers seeking to intervene as putative class representatives. The district court ultimately agreed that the named plaintiff lacked standing and denied the motions to intervene as untimely, reasoning that discovery should have put the new direct purchasers on notice of the potential for dismissal of the class certification motion, and thus the need for intervention, months earlier. The court denied class certification for lack of a named class representative and this appeal ensued.
On appeal, the Third Circuit reversed, holding that the presumption of timeliness applies with equal force in the pre-certification context. The court reasoned that the “concerns for fair notice and the rights of persons who may otherwise be bound by the judgment in a class action carry just as much weight for putative class members before a court has ruled on class certification.” Under a totality approach, the court analyzed the three-factor timeliness test and found no prejudice to defendants because there was no meaningful delay. Moreover, the court found unpersuasive the argument that use of the same counsel by both the original named plaintiff and the intervenors amounted to notice, reasoning that “timeliness cannot hinge on requiring litigants and their attorneys to divine the intent behind each of their opponent’s questions in discovery and defensively file motions based on conceivable uses their answers might provide.”
Wallach v. Eaton Corp., No. 15-3320 (3rd Cir. Sept. 14, 2016).