Hexcel Corp. v. Ineos Polymers

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 06-01-2012
  • Case #: 10-56765
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judges Fletcher and Kleinfeld
  • Full Text Opinion

Although the statute of limitations in antitrust actions may be tolled if the defendant fraudulently concealed the cause of action in such a way that the plaintiff was unable to know it existed, Hexcel had constructive, if not actual notice, of its claims against BP Amoco long before the earliest possible date Hexcel’s claims could have accrued. Therefore, the doctrine of fraudulent concealment does not apply, and Hexcel’s claims against BP Amoco are time-barred under the applicable four-year statute of limitations.

In 1999, Hexcel Corporation, a manufacturer of prepreg and carbon fiber, along with Ineos Polymers, Inc. (BP Amoco), were subjected to a grand jury investigation into “the pricing of all manufacturers of carbon fiber and carbon fiber prepreg.” In January 2003, Hexcel, BP Amoco, and the other defendants amended a joint defense agreement to include a tolling provision of potential claims against each other. In August 2008, BP Amoco terminated the tolling provision as to any claims against it, and in November 2008, Hexcel sued BP Amoco alleging violations of 15 U.S.C. §§ 1, 15, and 22 by conspiring to fix the price of carbon fiber that BP Amoco sold to Hexcel during the 1990s. Although antitrust actions must be commenced within four years from the date when the causes of action accrue, the statute of limitations may be tolled if the defendant fraudulently concealed the cause of action in a way that the plaintiff was unable to know it existed. Because Hexcel was unable to prove that BP Amoco’s fraudulent concealment prevented Hexcel from discovering its claims before its own inquiry in February 2001, the district court rejected Hexcel’s claim that the statute of limitations was tolled. The district court determined Hexcel employees knew or had reason to suspect that price-fixing may have been occurring in the carbon fiber market prior to the 1999 grand jury subpoena. The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court and determined that because Hexcel had constructive, if not actual notice, of its claims long before the date BP Amoco contended was the earliest possible date Hexcel’s claims could have accrued, the doctrine of fraudulent concealment did not apply. Therefore, Hexcel’s claims against Amoco were time-barred under the applicable four-year statute of limitations. AFFIRMED.

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