Railroads Win Price-Fixing Class Certification Appeal

Four U.S. railroad companies won their bid to reverse a ruling that turned a price-fixing lawsuit against them into a class action with potential damages of at least $10 billion.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington today threw out a decision by a lower-court judge who last year certified a class of about 30,000 shippers in a case against Union Pacific Corp. (UNP), the largest U.S. carrier; CSX Corp., the third-largest; Norfolk Southern Corp.; and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The lower court underestimated the potential harm to railroads, and the method for calculating prospective damages was flawed, according to Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown in writing for the panel.

Because of “the pressure to settle posed by the threat to the defendants’ market capitalization, and the identified defect in the damages model, we grant the defendants’ interlocutory appeal,” Brown wrote.

The case is In re Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litigation, 12-07085, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Zajac in Washington at azajac@bloomberg.net; Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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