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The Valspar Corp. v. Kronos Worldwide, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 1, 2014

The Valspar Corporation, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Kronos Worldwide, Inc., et al., Defendants

Page 1153

Richard Ihrig, James M. Lockhart, James P. McCarthy, John C. Ekman, Jessica L. Meyer, Lindquist & Vennum LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Plaintiffs.

Clifford M. Greene, Bethany D. Krueger, John W. Ursu, Greene Espel PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Paul E. Coggins, Kelly R. Vickers, Amanda L. Burcham, Locke Lord LLP, Dallas, Texas, for Defendant Kronos Worldwide, Inc.

Page 1154

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD H. KYLE, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff The Valspar Corporation (" Valspar" )[1] is one of the largest paint and coating producers in the world. In order to manufacture its products, it utilizes titanium dioxide - a dry, powdered chemical used for whiteness and brightness - purchased from a number of suppliers, including Defendant Kronos Worldwide, Inc. (" Kronos" ). In this action, Valspar alleges that Kronos and others conspired to artificially inflate titanium dioxide prices in violation of federal antitrust law. Presently before the Court is Kronos's Motion to sever Valspar's claims against it and transfer those claims to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. For the reasons that follow, its Motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Over the years, Valspar has purchased significant quantities of titanium dioxide. It alleges that as early as 2002, Kronos and others - including Millennium Inorganic Chemicals, Inc. (" Millennium" ), Huntsman International LLC (" Huntsman" ), and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (" DuPont" ) - conspired with one another and others to manipulate, raise, or maintain the market and price for titanium dioxide sold in the United States. According to Valspar, this conspiracy was successful and resulted in it paying " supra-competitive, artificially inflated prices." (Compl. ¶ ¶ 30, 189.)

In 2010, several titanium dioxide purchasers commenced a class action against these alleged conspirators in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, asserting that their conduct violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. That lawsuit eventually settled, but Valspar, one of the class members, opted out of the settlement and decided to pursue litigation on its own. Accordingly, in late 2013 it commenced the instant action against Kronos, Millennium,

Page 1155

Huntsman, and DuPont, asserting that these Defendants unlawfully conspired to manipulate the market for titanium dioxide in the United States. Pursuant to mandatory forum-selection clauses in their supply contracts, however, this Court severed the claims against Huntsman and DuPont and transferred them to the United States District Courts for the Southern District of Texas and the District of Delaware, respectively.

Following Huntsman's lead, Kronos now moves to sever the claims against it and transfer them to the Southern District of Texas. Its Motion has been ...


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