In mid-September, class notices went out in the ongoing Apple E-books class action lawsuit that might have momentarily had Apple’s attorneys a little concerned. Over three million potential members of the class received information detailing the next phase in the litigation–the trial to determine the extent of damages against Apple. The problem, of course, is that the damages trial was canceled a few months ago.
In this latest (and least substantive) chapter of the ongoing e-book antitrust saga, Plaintiffs’ counsel were forced to explain to the Court that they had for “currently unknown reasons” accidentally sent out notices informing class members about the canceled upcoming damages trial. Plaintiffs thereafter sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote, clarifying that the class notice had erroneously been sent.
Prior to being rendered unnecessary by the settlement, the second phase of the trial was set to fix Apple’s liability arising from its e-book antitrust violations. After some initial skepticism, Judge Cote approved the settlement in August, eliminating the need for any further litigation on Apple’s damages.
The settlement finally put to rest claims that Apple’s 2010 distribution deal with the top five publishers in the market illegally raised the prices of e-books. The five publishers settled with the government, but Apple took the case to trial, and In July 2013, Judge Cote ruled that the company had orchestrated the scheme in violation of the Sherman Act, which prohibits anti-trust violations. Of course, any damages for antitrust violations could have been trebled, leaving Apple on the hook for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.
Apple’s schadenfreude in class counsel’s notice error was short lived as Judge Cote quickly allowed the Plaintiffs’ attorneys to correct their error.