Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Antitrust
State v. Reliant Energy, Inc.
This case arose out of the recent energy crisis. Appellants alleged that Respondents, in violation of Nevada antitrust laws, conspired with the now-defunct Enron Corporation to drive up the price of natural gas in the Southern Nevada and Southeastern California markets. Appellants asserted (1) Respondents engaged in rapid bursts of purchasing natural gas followed by rapid bursts of selling the same gas, which resulted in considerable profits for Respondents and significantly higher prices for natural gas consumers; and (2) Respondents' plan for manipulating the markets worked because of a secret agreement with Enron that left Respondents with greater profits from the sale of gas as well as ensured that Respondents would always have a sufficient supply of natural gas. The district court ultimately dismissed the case, holding that the claims were barred by principles of federal preemption. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellants' claims were barred by federal field preemption. View "State v. Reliant Energy, Inc." on Justia Law
Am. Chem. Soc’y v. Leadscope, Inc.
Certain individuals who worked for American Chemical Society (ACS) founded Leadscope Inc. and later received a patent for technology similar to that on which they worked while at ACS. ACS filed a lawsuit against Leadscope. A newspaper subsequently published an article about the suit quoting ACS's counsel. In pertinent part, the jury returned verdicts in favor of Leadscope on its counterclaims for defamation and unfair competition. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court (1) upheld the appellate court's decision affirming the trial court's denial of ACS's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on the unfair competition claim, holding (i) a party alleging a claim for unfair competition must show the action is baseless and the opposing party had the intent to injure the party's ability to be competitive, and (ii) the jury instructions here did not meet that test, but the jury could not reasonably have made any other determination with proper instructions; and (2) reversed the appellate court's finding that the trial court properly overruled ACS's motion for JNOV on Leadscope's counterclaim for defamation, holding (i) ACS's statements were not defamatory, and (ii) a client is vicariously liable for its attorney's defamatory statements only if the client ratified the statements.View "Am. Chem. Soc'y v. Leadscope, Inc." on Justia Law
Preferred Sys. Solutions, Inc. v. GP Consulting, LLC
These companion appeals arose out of a dispute between a government contractor, Preferred Systems Solutions, Inc. (PSS) and one of its subcontractors, GP Consulting, LLC (GP). PSS sued GP following GP's termination of its contract with PSS and its commencement of a subsequent contract with a PSS competitor. PSS alleged breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, and tortious interference with contract, seeking injunctive as well as monetary relief. PSS was ultimately awarded $172,396 in compensatory damages based on the circuit court's finding that GP breached the noncompete clause in the parties' contract. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) awarding damages to PSS for lost profits as a result of GP's breach of the noncompete clause; and (2) refusing to grant PSS injunctive relief, in concluding that PSS failed to prove tortious interference, and in dismissing PSS' trade secret claim.View "Preferred Sys. Solutions, Inc. v. GP Consulting, LLC" on Justia Law
Intel Corporation v. American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co., et al.
Defendant-Appellant Intel Corporation appealed a Superior Court order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co. (AGLI) in a dispute over the interpretation of an excess insurance policy under California law. AGLI sought and obtained a declaration from the Superior Court that AGLI had no duty to reimburse Intel for defense costs or indemnity claims in connection with Intel's defense of various antitrust lawsuits, because the underlying insurance policy limits of $50 million were not exhausted as required by the AGLI policy. Intel read the AGLI Policy to allow Intel to exhaust the limits of its underlying policy with XL Insurance Company by adding Intel's own contributed payments for defense costs to the amount of Intel's settlement with XL. Under Intel’s interpretation, the XL Policy was exhausted and AGLI's duty to defend was triggered. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with the Superior Court that AGLI's reading was the only reasonable reading, and accordingly, affirmed.View "Intel Corporation v. American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co., et al." on Justia Law
WestGate Resorts, Ltd. v. Adel
Shawn Adel, a former employee of Westgate Resorts, a timeshare company, formed Consumer Protection Group (CPG) to right perceived wrongs stemming from Westgate's offer of certificates to consumers that were virtually irredemable. CPG solicited people who had received certificates to assign their claims to CPG. Westgate sued Adel, claiming intentional interference with existing and potential economic relations, conversion, breach of contract, and violation of the Utah Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Adel and CPG counterclaimed on behalf of 500 claimants, alleging breach of contract, fraudulent inducement, and violation of the Utah Consumer Protection Act. The jury awarded actual economic damages of between $5 and $550 for each claimant and awarded each claimant punitive damages of $66,666. The Supreme Court vacated the jury's punitive damages award, holding that the award violated Westgate's procedural due process rights under Philip Morris USA v. Williams because the statements made by CPG's counsel during closing argument created a risk that the jury would improperly consider harm allegedly caused by Westgate to nonparties when it fixed its punitive damages award. Remanded for a new evaluation of the punitive damages award only.View "WestGate Resorts, Ltd. v. Adel" on Justia Law
Petroplast Petrofisa Plasticos S.A. v. Ameron Int’l Corp.
This action arose from a technology-sharing relationship between companies engaged in the manufacture of industrial "sand-core" pipe for water and sewer applications. In 2002, the parties entered into an agreement whereby Plaintiffs agreed to provide Defendant with their technology for more efficient manufacturing sand-core pipe in exchange for data, reports, software, and other information developed by Defendant through use of Plaintiffs' process. Over time, the relationship between the parties disintegrated. As a result, in 2009, Plaintiffs brought this action asserting breach of contract and other causes of action related to Defendant's alleged nonperformance under their agreement. The Chancery Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for breach of contract, as well as claims under California Uniform Trade Secrets Act and for common law misappropriation, finding the claims were barred by laches.View "Petroplast Petrofisa Plasticos S.A. v. Ameron Int'l Corp." on Justia Law
Pickering v. Hood
To pursue claims against Microsoft for alleged violations of the Mississippi antitrust and consumer-protection laws, Attorney General Jim Hood signed a contingency-fee contract with Hazzard Law, LLC, which, in turn, associated other law firms to assist with the litigation. The chancery court dismissed the antitrust claims, but allowed the consumer-protection claims to proceed. The parties eventually signed a settlement agreement that required Microsoft to provide up to $60 million in vouchers for Mississippi residents, and to pay the State of Mississippi $50 million in cash. However, the settlement agreement provided that $10 million of the cash money was to be distributed to the trust account of one of the outside lawyers in Houston, Texas. State Auditor Stacey Pickering wrote Hazzard, stating that payment of settlement funds directly to outside counsel violated Mississippi law. And because the same issue was pending in circuit court in another case, the auditor reserved all objections to the settlement until after the courts resolved the issue. Hazzard responded by filing a petition in chancery court, seeking approval of the attorney-fee payment. The auditor intervened in order to investigate and recover any public funds improperly withheld, misappropriated, or illegally spent. The auditor also filed a motion to have the $10 million held in trust disbursed to the State. The chancellor ruled in favor of Hazzard and ordered the settlement funds distributed directly to Hazzard and other retained counsel. The auditor appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General cross-appealed, claiming the Auditor's intervention was untimely. The chancery court held that the payment was proper. But because the law required that outside counsel retained by the Attorney General be paid from his contingent fund or from other funds the Legislature appropriated to his office, and because the Mississippi Constitution requires obligations and liabilities to the State to be paid "into the proper treasury," the Supreme Court reversed. View "Pickering v. Hood" on Justia Law
Mueller v. Wellmark, Inc.
In this putative class action, Plaintiffs were doctors of chiropractic who alleged they had been victimized by the discriminatory practices of Iowa's largest health insurer, Wellmark, Inc. The district court (1) granted Wellmark's motion to dismiss claims brought under Iowa's insurance regulatory statutes because no private cause of action was provided therein; (2) granted Wellmark's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' antitrust claims based on the "state action" exemption found in Iowa Code 553.6(4); (3) granted summary judgment on claims alleging Wellmark breached its obligations under a judicially approved national class action settlement in Love v. Blue Cross Blue Shield Ass'n; and (4) granted summary judgment on several specific antitrust claims. The Supreme Court (1) reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on Plaintiffs' antitrust claims based on the state action exemption, as the record failed to establish the challenged conduct fell within the exemption; and (2) otherwise affirmed. Remanded.View "Mueller v. Wellmark, Inc." on Justia Law
Nuvasive, Inc. v. Lanx, Inc.
NuVasive alleges that Lanx improperly persuaded NuVasive employees and a NuVasive consultant to leave NuVasive and work for Lanx instead, in breach of agreements that the employees had with NuVasive, to misappropriate NuVasive’s trade secrets and other proprietary information. Both are medical corporations. NuVasive claimed unfair competition, tortious interference with contractual relations, tortious interference with prospective contractual relations, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy, and misappropriation of trade secrets. Lanx argued that the former NuVasive employees were necessary and indispensable parties to the action because NuVasive’s claims are predicated upon their acts. The chancellor declined to dismiss. While the former employees’ interests are not adequately protected by Lanx, the chancellor reasoned that a remedy could be crafted to avoid prejudice to their interests. The former employees were not indispensable to the misappropriation claim.View "Nuvasive, Inc. v. Lanx, Inc." on Justia Law
Sutherland v. Spencer
Plaintiff brought a Deceptive Trade Practices Act suit against Company and its co-operators for violating the terms of a contract. Through a process server, Plaintiff served all three Defendants with citations, but one citation contained an error in a co-operator's name. Defendants failed to file a timely answer, and Plaintiff obtained a default judgment. Defendants filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that service on the co-operator was improper and that Defendants established the necessary Craddock elements to set aside the default judgment. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendants asserted facts that, if true, established the first Craddock element, i.e., that the failure to appear was not intentional or the result of conscious indifference but was the result of a mistake or an accident. Remanded for consideration of the second and third elements of the Craddock test.View "Sutherland v. Spencer" on Justia Law