Class Certification Again Upheld in Suboxone

In a January opinion, Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania roundly rejected yet another attempt by Defendant Reckitt Benckiser, Inc. to decertify a class of direct purchasers in Suboxone.  This time, Reckitt based its arguments on class representative Rochester Drug Co-Operative’s March 2020 filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Reckitt argued that RDC’s status as debtor created conflicting interests between RDC and the class arising from RDC’s general obligation to maximize its value for creditors, and from RDC’s specific debts to Reckitt.

Rejecting Reckitt’s motion to “disqualify” RDC, Judge Goldberg first noted the obvious: “Rochester’s duty as a debtor-in-possession aligns with its role as a class representative.”  As a class representative, RDC has an interest in maximizing the value of its claim and, by extension, the claims of similarly situated class members.  The bankruptcy laws do not compel RDC to proceed any differently than it has done so to date in aggressively pursuing the Class’ claims.  Nor do RDC’s debts to Reckitt itself create an irreconcilable conflict. Reckitt’s own claims as creditor are so small (less that 1% of RDC’s total debt), that any actual conflict is simply irrelevant in the face of RDC’s prospects for a far larger recovery from its own claims: “Such a small liability owed to Defendant does not plausibly suggest that Rochester would less than vigorously advocate its substantial antitrust claims against Defendant at the expense of its other creditors and the class members, both of whom stand to benefit from a large antitrust recovery.”.  

Furthermore, Judge Goldberg credited the valuable experience RDC brings to the case, including its “proven history of serving as an adequate class representative”.  As RDC’s interests align with the class, so will its experience, and the experience of its counsel, benefit the entire class in prosecuting the case.

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