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Published: Monday, 1/17/2011

Class-action pretrial to draw dozens of lawyers to Toledo


Dozens of lawyers from around the country are to flock to Toledo this week for pretrial proceedings in a class action lawsuit involving an alleged price-fixing scheme.

Eleven companies, including two in northwest Ohio, are accused of violating anti-trust laws by conspiring to fix prices charged for polyurethane foam. Judge Jack Zouhary of the U.S. District Court in Toledo is assigned to consider pretrial motions in the case, which is scheduled to start Wednesday.

About 100 lawyers are expected to attend Wednesday's hearing, said David Zoll of Zoll, Kranz & Borgess LLC in Toledo, one of the law firms representing plaintiffs in the case. He said it could bring an economic boost to Toledo because many of those lawyers will stay at local hotels, eat at area restaurants, and buy services from Toledo firms. "It's a big deal," he said.

Although this week's hearing is expected to last one day, Mr. Zoll said the business is likely to be repeated because pretrial proceedings typically are held every 60 to 90 days.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, made up of seven judges, decides whether to consolidate civil lawsuits and transfer them to one federal district court. Cases typically are consolidated to make the proceedings more efficient and prevent inconsistencies between numerous cases with similar details, Mr. Zoll said.

The judicial panel usually presents consolidated cases to judges who have shown ability to handle complicated proceedings, said Jenna Grubb, spokesman for the Toledo Bar Association. "It's a vote of confidence for the local federal judiciary and satisfaction with Toledo being the host," she said.

Mr. Zoll said Toledo is considered a prime location for hearing consolidated class-action lawsuits because it is centrally located and is near Detroit Metro Airport.

A second class-action lawsuit, involving hip-replacement devices recalled by DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. of Warsaw, Ind., is being heard by U.S. District Judge David Katz of Toledo. It was assigned to Judge Katz by the Multidistrict Litigation panel. The case starts Thursday in Florida, but future hearings are expected to be held in Toledo, Mr. Zoll said.

Scottdel Inc., a carpet padding manufacturer in Swanton, is one of the defendants in the foam case. Chief Financial Officer Kevin Thornton said his company is defending itself against the lawsuit and does not believe it should have been named in the action.

Flexible Foam Products Inc., a polyurethane foam maker based in Spencerville, Ohio, also is named as a defendant. Company spokesman Mike Crowell declined to comment on the case.

Contact Sheena Harrison at: sharrison@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.

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