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N.C. Blue Cross antitrust class action heading to Alabama

As we’ve reported before, a group of individuals and businesses filed a class action against Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina last February, alleging that the company and its counterparts in other states had conspired to divide and allocate health insurance markets across the country in violation of state and federal law.  They also contend that BCBSNC used certain anticompetitive practices — such as “most favored nation” clauses in agreements with providers, which effectively set the floor on pricing — to retain its monopoly here.

By order of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation,  dated Dec. 12, that action has now been consolidated with some 20 or more similar actions pending across the country and transferred to federal court in Birmingham, Ala.  The court there will handle all pretrial matters, including whether the actions should be certified as class actions.

As the Panel stated:

Here, the actions involve substantial common questions of fact relating to the state BCBS entities’ relationship with the nationalassociation, BCBSA, and the licensing agreements that limit the Blue Plans’ activity to exclusive service areas, among other restrictions. All of the Blue Plans are alleged to be co-conspirators, even though some Blue Plans are named as defendants only in actions in their respective state. Centralizing these actions under Section 1407 will ensure streamlined resolution of this litigation to the overall benefit of the parties and the judiciary.

For all these reasons, on the basis of the papers filed and hearing session held, we find that these actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization of all actions in the Northern District of Alabama will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation. Centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, including with respect to class certification; 3 and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.

 

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