U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan has given final approval to settlements totaling $190 million in litigation over customer claims that airlines conspired to raise the price for cargo shipments. As a result, Nippon Cargo Airlines, EVA Airways Corp. and Asiana Airlines Inc. were released from the decade-old litigation. The court’s approval leaves pending settlements with Polar Air Cargo LLC and Air China of $100 million and $50 million, respectively. Under the settlements Nippon Cargo will pay $36 million, Eva $99 million and Asiana Airlines $55 million.
Two remaining defendants, Air India Ltd. and Air New Zealand Ltd., are still scheduled for a September bench trial. Judge Cogan called the settlements a “no-brainer,” but warned the plaintiffs’ lawyers not to come back later with a request for massive fees. He said these lawyers were “taking a risk” by not combining a fee percentage into the settlement agreements.
The multidistrict litigation started in 2006, when consumers brought more than 90 lawsuits against more than two dozen airlines after the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission began investigating the air freight industry. According to the DOJ, the conspirators used meetings, conversations and other communications to determine the rates the airlines should charge for various routes.
The two holdout defendants are scheduled to go to trial on September 12. Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd.’s $115 million settlement tops the list as the largest settlement to date. The class is represented by Robert N. Kaplan, Gregory K. Arenson and Gary L. Specks of Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, Hollis L. Salzman and Meegan Hollywood of Robins Kaplan LLP, Howard J. Sedran and Austin B. Cohen of Levin Fishbein Sedran & Berman, and Michael D. Hausfeld, Brent W. Landau, Hilary K. Scherrer and Melinda R. Coolidge of Hausfeld LLP.
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