Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

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In 2017, plaintiff Perfectus Aluminum, Inc. filed a civil complaint alleging causes of action for: (1) violation of California Unfair Competition Law; (2) trade libel; and (3) intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. Plaintiff named “Dupré Analytics” as the sole defendant in the complaint and alleged liability based upon the publication of two reports that suggested plaintiff was part of a conspiracy to artificially inflate the sales of a large Chinese aluminum company. Muddy Waters, LLC, doing business as Dupré Analytics (Muddy Waters) responded to the complaint by filing a special motion to strike pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute found in Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. The trial court denied Muddy Waters’s motion on the ground that Muddy Waters failed to show plaintiff’s causes of action arose out of protected activity under section 425.16 and that alternatively, the commercial speech exception found in section 425.17 (c), precluded granting the motion. Muddy Waters petitioned the Court of Appeal for mandamus relief. The Court concluded the trial court erred in denying Muddy Waters’s special motion to strike. Accordingly, the Court ordered a writ of mandate issue directing the superior court to vacate its order denying Muddy Waters’s special motion to strike and to enter a new order granting the motion. View "Muddy Waters v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising from a dispute concerning the parties' respective membership interests in three related LLCs the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court, holding that none of Defendants' challenges to the trial court's judgment and related orders had merit and that, with one exception, the same was true of Plaintiff's challenges to the judgment and orders.Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging claims for conversion, unfair and deceptive trade practices, unjust enrichment, a declaration that he continued to own interests in each of the LLCs and a claim seeking judicial dissolution of the LLCs. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff as to certain claims and in favor of Defendants as to other claims. The parties cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court erred in deciding to direct a verdict in favor of Defendants with respect to Plaintiff's claims related to Carolina Coast Holdings, LLC; and (2) the remaining claims on appeal were without merit. View "Chisum v. Campagna" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against ACS and in favor of its competing distributor, White Cap, on ACS's Sherman Antitrust Act and Georgia state law claims. ACS argues that summary judgment was erroneously granted because the evidence demonstrates that White Cap agreed with Meadow Burke to have Meadow Burke stop supplying ACS projects in Florida.The court held that the evidence is at least equally consistent with Meadow Burke having made an independent decision to terminate ACS as it is with an inference of concerted action. Furthermore, the evidence is at least equally consistent with White Cap having made an independent decision to continue distributing the Meadow Burke product as it is with it having engaged in concerted action. Therefore, the court cannot conclude that White Cap acted in a manner rising to the level of anticompetitive conduct necessary for a claim under section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The court also held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on ACS's monopolization and attempted monopolization claims pursuant to section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Finally, the court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on the tortious interference claim. View "American Contractors Supply, LLC v. HD Supply Construction Supply, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Appellants Area 55, LLC, and SAB Holdings, LLC appealed a trial court order granting the special motion to strike their first amended complaint for malicious prosecution and the related judgment of dismissal in favor of Respondents Nicholas & Tomasevic, LLP (N&T), Craig Nicholas, and Alex Tomasevic. Appellants included the successors to Vinturi, Inc. (Vinturi), which developed and sold the “ ‘Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator’ for wine-lovers who want to enhance their experience of drinking wine.” Vinturi started selling the Vinturi Aerator in 2006. As sold to the public, the box contained the Vinturi body with a decorative black silicone band, a rubber stand, and a filter screen -- parts all made in China, transported to the United States, and assembled in the United States. From 2006 until 2010, Vinturi sold its aerator in the United States with the statement “ ‘VINTURI IS MANUFACTURED IN THE USA’ ” printed on the bottom panel of the box. Attorney Nicholas filed various consumer fraud claims, challenging Appellants claim the aerator was made in the U.S. when the components were made in China. Appellants were successful in getting two class action cases dismissed. In 2018, Appellants filed the present case for malicious prosecution, resulting in the grant of Respondents' "SLAPP" motion on appeal. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in ruling that Appellants could not establish the prior action was not terminated on its merits. "Thus, for purposes of the anti-SLAPP statute, the court erred in ruling that Appellants did not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits of their malicious prosecution claim." In addition, in its de novo review, the Court exercised discretion to reach the additional issues raised by the parties in the motion and opposition: Appellants made a sufficient prima facie showing of the remaining elements of their claim, and Respondents did not defeat Appellants’ claim as a matter of law. Accordingly, the order granting Respondents’ special motion to strike the complaint was vacated and reversed. On remand, the trial court was directed to enter a new and different order denying Respondents’ special motion. View "Area 55 v. Nicholas & Tomasevic" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Federal Trade Commission's "single document rule," promulgated under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301-2312, does not require the disclosure of a binding arbitration agreement.Petitioner bought a truck from Respondent. The parties' retail purchase order included a binding arbitration agreement for any dispute related to the truck's purchase. Petitioner eventually filed suit under the Act, and Respondent successfully moved to compel arbitration. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because it was not disclosed in a single document with other warranty terms, in violation of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) single document rule. The Fifth District affirmed, holding that a binding arbitration agreement is not an item covered by the single document rule's disclosure requirements. The Supreme Court approved the Fifth District's decision, holding that the existence of a binding arbitration agreement is not among the disclosures required by the FTC's single document rule. View "Krol v. FCA US, LLC" on Justia Law

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GPI and Foodbuy were engaged in a non-exclusive commercial relationship, which was memorialized in a supplier agreement. Foodbuy subsequently filed suit against GPI alleging, among other claims, breach of contract for overcharging its Committed Customers. GPI counterclaimed, asserting, in relevant part, breach of contract for over-invoicing and violations of North Carolina's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA). The district court held that the Agreement's terms were unambiguous, and, under its plain language, required GPI to pay a volume allowance only for purchases made through Foodbuy's program (and thus at Foodbuy's price). In the alternative, the district court determined that should the Agreement's terms be found to be ambiguous, the same result would follow because the various methods of contract interpretation pointed to the same conclusion.The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that Foodbuy failed to show that it suffered any individualized harm as a result of GPI's alleged failure to sell its products to Committed Customers at the correct pre-determined prices under the Agreement. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Foodbuy's overcharging claim for lack of standing. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Foodbuy's motion in limine to exclude GPI's damages calculation, and in denying Foodbuy's request for leave to amend its answer to conform to the evidence. The court noted that the proper framework for resolving the breach of contract claim involves the tools for interpreting ambiguous contracts. In this case, the district court undertook that analysis in its alternative holding wherein it concluded that the parties' intent was to require GPI to pay a volume allowance on only those purchases made through the Foodbuy program at the negotiated price. Because Foodbuy failed to present any argument in its opening brief taking issue with this facet of the district court's alternative holding, even though the court found the Agreement to be ambiguous, Foodbuy has waived any challenge to the district court's judgment on that ground. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's interpretation of the Agreement. However, the district court wrongly denied GPI's cross-claim alleging violations of the UDTPA. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded on this issue. View "Foodbuy, LLC v. Gregory Packaging, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of Axon's action alleging that the FTC's administrative enforcement process violated the company's constitutional rights. In this case, the FTC investigated and filed an administrative complaint challenging Axon's acquisition of a competitor, demanding that Axon spin-off its newly acquired company and provide it with Axon's own intellectual property. The district court dismissed the complaint after determining that the FTC's statutory scheme requires Axon to raise its constitutional challenge first in the administrative proceeding.The panel held that the Supreme Court's Thunder Basin trilogy of cases mandates dismissal. The panel explained that the structure of the Federal Trade Commission Act suggests that Congress impliedly barred jurisdiction in district court and required parties to move forward first in the agency proceeding. Because the FTC statutory scheme ultimately allows Axon to present its constitutional challenges to a federal court of appeals after the administrative proceeding, the panel concluded that Axon has not suffered any cognizable harm. Therefore, the panel joined every other circuit that has addressed a similar issue in ruling that Congress impliedly stripped the district court of jurisdiction. View "Axon Enterprise, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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After VA Medical Center selected Metro Health's bid on the condition that Metro Health could obtain a permit from the City to operate emergency medical services (EMS) vehicles, the City refused to grant Metro Health a permit. Metro Health then filed suit against the City and RAA, alleging violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case with prejudice, agreeing with the district court that defendants were entitled to immunity from federal antitrust liability where they acted pursuant to a clearly articulated state policy. Furthermore, federal law does not preempt their actions. The court rejected Metro Health's contention that by thwarting the VA Medical Center's competitive bidding process, the City and RAA have violated the Supremacy Clause. The court explained that, where, as here, a federal agency, of its own volition, imposes a contract condition consistent with federal law, the Supremacy Clause is not implicated. View "Western Star Hospital Authority, Inc. v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

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Shah, a board-certified pediatric anesthesiology specialist, joined STAR, which became the exclusive provider of anesthesia services at several San Antonio-area acute-care hospitals, including NCB. BHS guaranteed STAR $500,000 in collections for pediatric anesthesia services provided at NCB. In 2012, STAR became the exclusive provider of anesthesia services at four BHS hospitals. Shah was not a party to the 2012 agreement, nor was he named in the pediatric income guarantee but he continued to practice as a STAR pediatric anesthesiologist, becoming the primary beneficiary of STAR’s guaranteed collections. In 2016, STAR and BHS amended the 2012 agreement, eliminating the pediatric income guarantee. The exclusivity provision remained. STAR terminated its relationship with Shah. Shah could no longer provide pediatric anesthesia services at NCB or any other BHS facility included in the exclusivity agreement. Shah requested authorization to provide pediatric anesthesia care at NCB; BHS responded that Shah’s reappointment to the Medical Staff of BHS and his privileges were approved but the exclusivity provision precluded Shah from providing pediatric anesthesia services at six BHS facilities (including NCB). After unsuccessfully suing STAR in Texas state court, Shah sued under the Sherman Act.The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the BHS parties. Shah’s definition of the relevant market is insufficient as a matter of law; it does not encompass all interchangeable substitute products because it does not include the two non-BHS facilities that the BHS parties contend serve as viable alternatives to BHS facilities. View "Shah v. VHS San Antonio Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute in which Plaintiffs sought reimbursement for healthcare costs based upon claims for restraint of trade and monopolization pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. Chapter 75 and N.C. Const. art. I, 34, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the trial court deciding issues arising from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority's motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the trial court erred in part.Plaintiffs were a group of current and former North Carolina residents who were covered under the commercial health insurance obtained through the Hospital Authority, a non-profit corporation providing healthcare services with a principal place of business in Charlotte. The trial court granted the Hospital Authority's motion for judgment on the pleadings with respect to Plaintiffs' restraint of trade and monopolization claims but denied the motion with respect to Plaintiffs' monopolization claim. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the trial court (1) did not err in granting judgment on the pleadings with respect to Plaintiffs' Chapter 75 restraint of trade and monopolization claims; but (2) erred by denying the motion for judgment on the pleadings with respect to Plaintiffs' claim pursuant to article I, section 34. View "DiCesare v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hosp. Auth" on Justia Law