Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries
San Francisco Print Media Co. v. The Hearst Corp.
The San Francisco Examiner sued the San Francisco Chronicle, claiming that the defendant sold a certain type of print advertising in the Chronicle at prices that violated California’s Unfair Practices Act (UPA, Bus. & Prof. Code, 17000) and Unfair Competition Law (UCL, 17200). The trial court granted the defendant summary judgment. The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court properly rejected the claim of below-cost sales under the UPA after excluding the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert on costs. The plaintiff had disclaimed reliance on specific transactions to prove the Chronicle’s alleged underpricing of its print advertising, leaving only the aggregate cost analysis prepared by that expert to establish the occurrence of alleged below-cost sales. The plaintiff’s expert lacked the foundational knowledge to conduct the requisite cost analysis and based his analysis on another individual’s non-UPA-related pricing analysis without understanding its foundations, such as some of the included cost components. Summary judgment was proper as to the claim for unlawful use or sale of loss leaders under the UPA because the plaintiff failed to identify the loss leader sales on which this claim was based. The trial court did not err in granting summary judgment on the causes of action for secret and unearned discounts under the UPA. View "San Francisco Print Media Co. v. The Hearst Corp." on Justia Law
Institute For Responsible Alcohol Policy v. Oklahoma ex rel. Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement Comm.
Oklahoma Senate Bill 608 mandated that manufacturers of the top 25 brands of liquor and wine sell their product to all licensed wholesalers. Appellees, a group of liquor and wine wholesalers, manufacturers, retail liquor stores, and consumers, challenged Senate Bill 608 as unconstitutional, contending it was in conflict with Okla. Const. art. 28A, section 2(A)(2)'s discretion given to a liquor or wine manufacturer to determine what wholesaler sells its product. The district court agreed and ruled Senate Bill 608 unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held SB 608 was "clearly, palpably, and plainly inconsistent" with Article 28A, section 2(A)(2)'s discretion given to a liquor or wine manufacturer to determine what wholesaler sells its product. Furthermore, the Court ruled that SB 608 was not a proper use of legislative authority as Article 28A, section 2(A)(2) was not in conflict with the Oklahoma Constitution's anticompetitive provisions. The district court, therefore, did not err by granting Distributors' Motion for Summary Judgment and ruling SB 608 unconstitutional. View "Institute For Responsible Alcohol Policy v. Oklahoma ex rel. Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement Comm." on Justia Law
Saginaw County. v. STAT Emergency Medical Services, Inc.
Saginaw County has nearly 200,000 residents. A single company, Mobile Medical, has provided the county’s ambulance services since 2009. The county guaranteed Mobile the exclusive right to operate within its borders; Mobile pledged to serve all eight of Saginaw County’s cities and incorporated villages and its 27 rural townships. In 2011, STAT, a competing ambulance company, entered the Saginaw market, providing patient-transport services for an insurer as part of a contract that covered six Michigan counties. A municipality, dissatisfied with Mobile’s response times and fees, hired STAT. When Saginaw County proposed to extend Mobilel’s contract in 2013, STAT objected, arguing that the arrangement violated state law, federal antitrust law, and the Fourteenth Amendment. The county approved Mobile's new contract and enacted an ordinance that codified the exclusivity arrangement but never enforced the ordinance. STAT continued to insist that Michigan law permitted it to offer ambulance services. Saginaw County sought a federal declaratory judgment that Michigan law authorizes the exclusive contract and that it does not violate federal antitrust laws or the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting STAT from operating in the county. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim for lack of jurisdiction. The county failed to establish an actual or imminent injury. Federal courts have the power to tell parties what the law is, not what it might be in potential enforcement actions. View "Saginaw County. v. STAT Emergency Medical Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Hinrichs v. DOW Chemical Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's dismissal of Chris Hinrichs and Autovation Limited's (collectively, Hinrichs) common law misrepresentation claims against the DOW Chemical Company and reversing the circuit court's dismissal of Hinrichs' statutory claim under Wis. Stat. 100.18, holding that the court of appeals did not err. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that, with regard to Hinrichs' common law claims, neither the "fraud in the inducement" exception nor the "other property exception" to the economic loss doctrine applied to allow Hinrichs' common law claims to go forward. With regard to Hinrichs' statutory claims the Court held (1) the economic loss doctrine does not serve as a bar to claims made under section 100.18; (2) because one person can be "the public" for purposes of section 100.18(1), the court of appeals did not err in determining that dismissal for failure to meet "the public" factor of the section 100.18 claim was in error; and (3) the heightened pleading standard for claims of fraud does not apply to claims made under section 100.18 and that Hinrichs' complaint stated a claim under the general pleading standard. View "Hinrichs v. DOW Chemical Co." on Justia Law
GandyDancer, LLC v. Rock House CGM, LLC
GandyDancer, LLC, and Rock House CGM, LLC, were business competitors, and both provided railway construction and repair services to BNSF Railway Company. BNSF awarded contracts to Rock House to provide goods and services in New Mexico. GandyDancer filed a complaint with the New Mexico Construction Industries Division (CID) in 2015 that alleged Rock House violated the Construction Industries Licensing Act (CILA), by performing unlicensed construction work in New Mexico. GandyDancer thereafter filed a complaint in district court against Rock House, alleging theories of competitive injury, and including a claim that Rock House engaged in unfair methods of competition to obtain contracts with BNSF contrary to the UPA. GandyDancer alleged Rock House’s acts amounted to an “unfair or deceptive trade practice” under Section 57-12-2(D) of the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act (UPA). The district court certified for interlocutory review whether the UPA supported supports a cause of action for competitive injury. The Court of Appeals accepted interlocutory review and held that a business may sue for competitive injury based on a plain reading of the UPA. The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed, because the Legislature excluded competitive injury from the causes of action permitted under that statute. Furthermore, the Court observed that Gandydancer relied upon dicta in Page & Wirtz Construction Co. v. Soloman, 794 P.2d 349. Therefore, the Court formally disavowed reliance on Page & Wirtz or prior New Mexico case law that conflicted with its opinion here. View "GandyDancer, LLC v. Rock House CGM, LLC" on Justia Law
Parnell v. Fanduel, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's complaint and class action allegations against FanDuel, Inc., holding that Appellant's complaint was devoid of facts upon which he may be entitled to relief. Plaintiff filed this class action lawsuit alleging that FanDuel ran illegal advertising. Plaintiff alleged violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA) and unjust enrichment on behalf of himself and the putative class. The circuit court dismissed both Plaintiff's complaint and the class allegations, concluding that the complaint failed to allege an actual loss and that the class allegations could no longer be maintained under the amended ADTPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's action was not cognizable under the ADTPA and that his unjust enrichment claim failed because Plaintiff did not actually allege that FanDuel was unjustly enriched. View "Parnell v. Fanduel, Inc." on Justia Law
Saunders v. Briner
In this breach of contract action, the Supreme Court reversed in part the trial court's judgment rendered in favor of Plaintiff as to his derivative claims, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring them under the common law or the Connecticut Limited Liability Company Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 34-100 et seq., but affirmed the judgment for Plaintiff as to his direct claims. This case arose from the deterioration of a business relationship between three individuals. Plaintiff sought damages for, inter alia, breach of contract. Defendants filed a counterclaim. The trial court awarded judgment in part for Plaintiff on the complaint and on the counterclaim. The Supreme Court reversed in part and vacated the court's award of attorney fees under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq., holding (1) Plaintiff lacked standing to bring his derivative claims; and (2) the trial court properly entered judgment for Plaintiff on his direct counts and did not abuse its discretion in refusing to order Defendants to reimburse Plaintiff for the fees incurred by a joint, court-appointed fiduciary hired to wind up the companies at issue. View "Saunders v. Briner" on Justia Law
Cenatiempo v. Bank of America, N.A.
In this complaint alleging that a residential loan servicer engaged in systematic misrepresentations and delays over several years of post default loan modification negotiations with mortgagors the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court insofar as it struck Plaintiff's negligence claim but reversed the judgment insofar as the court struck Plaintiffs' claim alleging a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 24-110a et seq., holding the alleged facts could support a claim under CUTPA but would not support a claim of negligence. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant committed unfair or deceptive acts in the conduct of trade or commerce by failing to exercise reasonable diligence in reviewing and processing Plaintiffs' loan modification applications, causing undue delay, and misrepresenting many aspects of the loan modification. Defendant moved to strike both the CUTPA and negligence counts. The trial court granted the motion to strike. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs alleged a CUTPA violation sufficient to survive a motion to strike; and (2) Defendant did not owe a common-law duty of care to Plaintiffs, and therefore, the trial court properly struck Plaintiffs' common-law negligence count. View "Cenatiempo v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law
Mrs. Fields Famous Brands v. MFGPC
Plaintiffs and counterclaim-defendants Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, LLC (Famous Brands) and Mrs. Fields Franchising, LLC (Fields Franchising) appealed a district court order granting a preliminary injunction in favor of defendant and counterclaim-plaintiff MFGPC Inc. (MFGPC). The sole member of Famous Brands is Mrs. Fields Original Cookies, Inc. (MFOC). MFOC entered into a Trademark License Agreement (License Agreement) with LHF, Inc. (LHF), an affiliate of MFGPC. In 2003, LHF assigned all rights under the License Agreement to MFGPC, and MFGPC agreed to be bound by and perform in accordance with the License Agreement. The License Agreement granted MFGPC a license to develop, manufacture, package, distribute and sell prepackaged popcorn products bearing the “Mrs. Fields” trademark through all areas of general retail distribution. A dispute arose after Fields Franchising allowed MFGPC to be late with a royalty payment because of a fire that destroyed some of MFGPC’s operations. The franchisor sought to terminate the licensing agreement and collect the royalties owed. Fields Franchising filed suit against MFGPC. In August 2018, the district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of MFGPC on its counterclaim for breach of a trademark license agreement that afforded MFGPC the exclusive use of the “Mrs. Fields” trademark on popcorn products. The district court’s summary judgment order left only the question of remedy to be decided at trial. MFGPC then moved for a preliminary injunction, arguing that there was a substantial likelihood that it would prevail at trial on the remedy of specific performance. After conducting a hearing, the district court granted MFGPC’s motion and ordered Fields Franchising to terminate any licenses it had entered into with other companies for the use of the Mrs. Fields trademark on popcorn products, and to instead comply with the terms of the licensing agreement it had previously entered into with MFGPC. Famous Brands and Fields Franchising argued in this appeal that the district court erred in a number of respects in granting MFGPC’s motion for preliminary injunction. The Tenth Circuit agreed with appellants, and consequently reversed the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of MFGPC. View "Mrs. Fields Famous Brands v. MFGPC" on Justia Law
New York v. Mountain Tobacco Co.
King Mountain appealed the district court's judgment granting partial summary judgment for the State on its claims that King Mountain violated state laws on cigarette sales, and enjoining future violations. The State cross-appealed from the district court's dismissal of its claims under the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA) and the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act). The Second Circuit reversed with respect to the district court's grant of summary judgment for King Mountain and the denial of summary judgment for the State on the PACT Act claim. The court agreed with the State that Congress's decision to separately define "Indian country" and "State" in the PACT Act evidenced Congressional intent to expand the traditional understanding of "interstate commerce" rather than narrow it. The court held that the definition of "commerce between a State and any place outside the State," encompassed King Mountain's sales from the Yakama reservation in Washington State to Indian reservations in New York. The court agreed with the district court's holding that King Mountain, which was organized under the laws of the Yakama Nation, wholly owned by a member of the Yakama Nation, and located on the Yakama reservation, qualified as an "Indian in Indian Country," and thus was exempt from the CCTA. The court held that King Mountain failed to establish a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause; there was no error in the district court's determination that the State's third claim for relief was not barred by res judicata; the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the State on its third claim for relief; and, to the extent King Mountain's argument related to trade, there was no right to trade in the Yakama Treaty. Therefore, the court affirmed in all other respects. View "New York v. Mountain Tobacco Co." on Justia Law