Sockeye price-fixing case set for trial Feb. 3

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Superior Court Judge Peter A. Michalski on Wednesday set a Feb. 3 trial date for a class action lawsuit alleging price fixing in the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery.

The trial is expected to last at least three months. Michalski allotted 15 days for plaintiff commercial fishermen to present their case. The defense, representing 12 processors and importers, will have 45 days.

''We look forward to justice for the thousands of fishermen victims,'' said Anchorage attorney Phillip Weidner, whose firm filed the lawsuit in 1995.

The defense had asked the court to set trial for Jan 19, 2004, and to allow additional discovery to include seafood marketing conditions for several years after the suit was filed.

''While we were somewhat disappointed, the defendants should be able to work with (Michalski's) ruling as we prepare for trial,'' said defense attorney Douglas Serdahely. ''We were seeking only limited additional discovery anyway.''

Lawyers for fishermen allege that large Japanese corporations and Seattle-based processors conspired to depress salmon prices.

Michalski's move to set the trial follows an Alaska Supreme Court ruling May 31 that overturned a 1999 Michalski decision granting collective summary judgments to defendants.

The higher court found that ''the plaintiffs have presented evidence that raises material issues of fact as to the existence of an antitrust conspiracy involving some or all of the defendants.''

The Supreme Court also ruled that damages in the case be limited to the four years prior to filing of the suit. Justices also ruled to allow liability on those who use the corporation as an instrument in conducting their personal business.

Plaintiffs plan to argue that defendant importers are liable for actions of their subsidiaries. Marubeni Corp. owns North Pacific Processors Inc., Nippon Suissan Kaisha Ltd. owns Unisea Inc. and Nichiro Corp. owns Peter Pan Seafoods Inc.

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