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Carl Blessing et al v. Sirius Xm Radio Inc

March 29, 2011

CARL BLESSING ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SIRIUS XM RADIO INC.,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harold Baer, Jr., District Judge:

OPINION & ORDER

This case involves a proposed class action based on the plaintiffs' purchase of satellite digital audio radio services ("SDARS") -- commonly known as "satellite radio" -- from the defendant in various locations throughout the United States. Plaintiffs claim that the July 28, 2008 merger of Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc. with XM Satellite Holdings, Inc. created a monopoly in the surviving company, Defendant Sirius XM Radio Inc. ("Defendant" or "Sirius XM"), and that Defendant has abused its monopoly power in violation of federal anti-trust laws. Plaintiffs also claim that Defendant deceived its customers in violation of state consumer protection laws. The plaintiffs now move to certify four classes under Rule 23(b)(2) and Rule 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The plaintiffs also move to be appointed as Class Representative, and to have Grant & Eisenhofer P.A., Milberg LLP, and Cook, Hall & Lampros, LLP as Class Counsel. For the following reasons, the plaintiffs' motion for class certification is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 28, 2008, the only two providers of SDARS in the U.S., Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc. and XM Satellite Holdings, Inc. merged to form Defendant. The result of the merger has effectively eliminated Defendant's competition within the U.S. SDARS market. After the merger Defendant made upward adjustments to its pricing with respect to various services including: (i) increase in the monthly charge per additional radio for multi-radio subscribers from $6.99 per month to $8.99; (ii) initiating a $2.99 monthly fee for internet streaming; (iii) charging a "U.S. Music Royalty Fee" (the "Royalty Fee") between 10% and 28%; and (iv) increases in various administrative fees. Plaintiffs allege that these price increases are the result of Defendant's abuse of monopoly power, whereas Defendant alleges that the price increases simply reflect increases in the Defendant's costs and the higher quality of service provided.

Plaintiffs filed several class action lawsuits against Sirius XM, which were joined in a consolidated amended complaint filed March 22, 2010. On May 3, 2010, Plaintiffs filed the Second Consolidated Amended Class Action Complaint ("SCAC"), which added eleven new plaintiffs. Plaintiffs allege four counts: (1) unlawful acquisition of monopoly power in violation of Clayton Act § 7; (2) unlawful acquisition of monopoly power in violation of Sherman Act § 2; (3) breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (4) breach of state consumer protection statutes.

On July 30, 2010, Plaintiffs moved to certify the following four classes*fn1

INJUNCTIVE RELIEF CLASS.

All persons or entities who reside in the United States and who contracted with Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc., XM Satellite Radio Holdings, Inc., Sirius XM Radio Inc. or their affiliated entities for the provision of satellite digital audio radio services during the relevant period of July 28, 2008 through the present.*fn2

FEDERAL ANTITRUST DAMAGE CLASS.

All persons or entities who reside in the United States and who contracted with Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc., XM Satellite Radio Holdings, Inc., Sirius XM Radio Inc. or their affiliated entities for the provision of satellite digital audio radio services who, during the relevant period of July 29, 2008 through the present: (1) paid the U.S. Music Royalty Fee; (2) own and activated additional radios ("multi-radio subscribers") and paid the increased monthly charge of $8.99 per additional radio; or (3) did not pay to access the content available on the 32 bkps or 64 bkps connections on the Internet but are now paying the Internet access monthly charge of $2.99.*fn3

BREACH OF CONTRACT CLASS.

All persons or entities who reside in the United States and who contracted with Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc., XM Satellite Radio Holdings, Inc., Sirius XM Radio Inc. or their affiliated entities for the provision of satellite digital audio radio services who paid the U.S. Music Royalty Fee, during the relevant period of July 29, 2009 through the present.*fn4

CONSUMER PROTECTION CLASS. All persons or entities who reside in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington and who contracted with Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc., XM Satellite Radio Holdings, Inc., Sirius XM Radio Inc. or their affiliated entities for the provision of satellite digital audio radio services who paid the U.S. Music Royalty Fee, during the *fn5 relevant period of July 29, 2009 through the present.

(Pl. Notice of Motion for Class Cert. at 1-3.) On November 17, 2010, this Court dismissed Count 3 of the SCAC, rendering the motion to certify the Breach of Contract Class moot. The motion to certify the remaining three classes remains before this Court.

DISCUSSION

A.Legal Standard for Class Certification

To qualify for class certification, plaintiffs must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the putative class meets the four threshold requirements of Rule 23(a) and must also establish that the class is maintainable under at least one of the subsections of Rule 23(b). See Teamsters Local 445 Freight Div. Pension Fund v. Bombardier Inc., 546 F.3d 196, 202 (2d Cir. 2008). Courts must engage in a "rigorous analysis" to determine whether the Rule 23 requirements have been met. In re Initial Public Offerings Sec. Litig., 472 F.3d 24, 33 (2d Cir. 2006). District courts may rely on affidavits, documents, and testimony to determine whether the Rule 23 requirements have been met. Spagnola v. Chubb Corp., 264 F.R.D. 76, 93 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (citing Bombardier, 546 F.3d at 204). During this determination, the resolution of any factual dispute is made only for the purposes of the class certification phase, and is not binding on the court with respect to the merits of the case. Id. at n.17 (citing In re IPO, 471 F.3d at 41).

B.Rule 23(a) Requirements

To qualify for class certification, plaintiffs must first prove four elements by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) numerosity, (2) commonality, (3) typicality, and (4) adequate representation. Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). Rule 23 also contains an "implicit requirement that the proposed class be precise, objective and presently ascertainable." Bakalar v. Vavra, 237 F.R.D. 59, 64 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). I will address these elements in turn.

1.Numerosity

Rule 23(a)(1) requires that the "class [be] so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable," (Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(1)) or would be "inconvenient or difficult." J.P. Morgan Chase Cash Balance Litig., 242 F.R.D. 265, 272 (S.D.N.Y. 2007). In the Second Circuit a proposed class of 40 members presumptively satisfies numerosity. See, e.g., Consol. Rail Corp. v. Town of Hyde Park, 47 F.3d 473, 483 (2d Cir. 1995). Here, plaintiffs have demonstrated that as of March 31, 2010, Sirius XM had 18,944,199 subscribers, and that substantially all subscribers are members of the ...


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