Florida Antitrust parties settle prior to appellate court action

Sources: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Atlanta; CP staff

By Don Marsh

After nearly 30 months, plaintiffs and defendants appear to have closed a case alleging a price-fixing and market allocation conspiracy among four Sunshine State producers with integrated cement and ready mixed operations. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals filings throughout February cite a settlement of undisclosed terms; they culminated in an order granting plaintiffs’ withdrawal of a petition that could have continued proceedings.

The case, In Re Florida Cement and Concrete Antitrust Litigation, arrived at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals after the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami, denied class certification for Direct Purchaser and Indirect Purchaser plaintiffs groups. A concurrent ruling in early-January allowed them to petition the Eleventh Circuit Court for a possible review of the District Court decision.

A class action would have enabled plaintiffs’ counsel to pursue antitrust law violation claims—and injunctive relief plus damages—with greater economy than the “individualized inquiry” to which they were bound by the class certification denial. The settlement noted in Eleventh Circuit Court documents involves counsel for six small contractors, comprising the Direct Purchaser plaintiffs, and defendants Cemex Corp., Florida Rock Industries, Tarmac America LLC and Prestige AB Management.

In Re Florida Cement and Concrete Antitrust Litigation emerged in January 2010 from complaints alleging that 10 integrated cement and ready mixed concrete producers had engaged in a price-fixing and market allocation conspiracy throughout Florida, dating to at least 2000. In July 2010, plaintiffs withdrew claims against Lafarge North America and Holcim (US) Inc., and scaled the purported conspiracy timeline to 2004–2009. The following month saw the court dismiss six defendants, or subsidiaries of the main defendants named in the original complaint, who were alleged to have participated in cement
price-fixing and market allocation.

In January 2011, plaintiffs amended their complaint, alleging a ready mixed price-fixing and market-allocation conspiracy among four producers during 2008–2009. In a late-2011 hearing on the class certification, defendants entered an expert witness’ analysis of transactions during the purported conspiracy window; it demonstrated how a variety of customers had purchased ready mixed at levels below those indicated in $25/yard price increases defendants had announced for fall 2008.