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District Judge Puts iPhone Plaintiffs On Hold

Posted  December 20, 2010

Just weeks after the Ninth Circuit agreed to certify a class of plaintiffs suing Apple and AT&T for antitrust violations related to iPhone contracts, the district court judge presiding over the case has put the plaintiffs’ case on hold.

Judge James Ware of the Northern District of California wants to let the Supreme Court decide a different case concerning arbitration before he proceeds with In re Apple & ATTM Antitrust Litigation.

The plaintiffs in the California case allege that Apple and AT&T violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act by agreeing to bind iPhones to AT&T’s network for five years, even though consumers who bought iPhones agreed to contracts with AT&T lasting only two years.  Judge Ware in July certified a class of “All persons who purchased or acquired an iPhone in the United States and entered into a two-year agreement with Defendant AT&T Mobility, LLC for iPhone voice and data service anytime from June 29, 2007 to the present.”  The Ninth Circuit affirmed in October.

On remand, Judge Ware told the parties not to proceed with their case management conference.  The Supreme Court, he wrote, is considering another case against AT&T – AT&T Mobility  v. Concepcion – that was argued in early November.  That case concerns whether California’s consumer protection law trumps a contract that mandates arbitration between AT&T Mobility and the consumers suing it, but bars the consumers from suing together as a class.

According to Judge Ware, “a stay in this case will also simplify the legal issues and conserve judicial resources,” and “any prejudice against the plaintiffs as a result of delay was outweighed by the potential prejudice against defendants in requiring further litigation of claims that may be subject to arbitration.”  Judge Ware added that seven other courts had stayed proceedings against AT&T Mobility and Verizon pending a decision in Concepcion.  Judge Ware instructed the parties to file a joint status report within 14 days of when the Supreme Court decides the Concepcion case.

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