Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Blenheim Capital Holdings Ltd. v. Lockheed Martin Corporation
Blenheim Capital Holdings Ltd. and Blenheim Capital Partners Ltd., Guernsey-based companies (collectively, “Blenheim”), commenced this action against Lockheed Martin Corporation, Airbus Defence and Space SAS, and the Republic of Korea and its Defense Acquisition Program Administration (the last two, collectively, “South Korea”), alleging that Defendants conspired to “cut it out” as the broker for a large, complex international military procurement transaction. Blenheim alleged that the defendants (1) tortiously interfered with its brokerage arrangement and its prospective business expectations; (2) conspired to do so; (3) were unjustly enriched; and (4) conspired to violate federal and state antitrust laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). With respect to the tort claims, it concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction by reason of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because South Korea was presumptively immune from jurisdiction under the Act and had not been engaged in “commercial activity,” The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the offset transaction was not commercial activity as excepted from the immunity from jurisdiction conferred in the FSIA, accordingly the court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction over Blenheim’s tort claims. Further, because Blenheim felt adverse impacts immediately upon Lockheed’s October 2016 termination of the brokerage agreement, the date of the satellite launch is not relevant to the date when the cause of action accrued. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling that Blenheim’s antitrust claims are barred by the applicable four-year statute of limitations. View "Blenheim Capital Holdings Ltd. v. Lockheed Martin Corporation" on Justia Law
Chandler v. Phoenix Services
Plaintiffs are oil-field manufacturing and services companies (collectively, “Chandler”) who brought Walker Process fraud and sham patent litigation claims against defendants Phoenix Services, LLC, and its CEO, Mark Fisher (collectively, “Phoenix”). The patent at issue here is U.S. Patent No. 8,171,993 (the “’993 Patent”), which was issued to Mark Hefley, founder of Heat On-The-Fly, LLC (“HOTF”). The district court dismissed some of the claims for lack of standing and others as time-barred. The case was then appealed to the Federal Circuit, but the Federal Circuit found the case had no live patent issues and so transferred the case to the Fifth Circuit.Both parties moved for summary judgment, to support its claims, Chandler alleged Phoenix was liable as HOTF’s parent company for two anticompetitive acts involving the ’993 Patent. Chandler and Phoenix cross-moved for summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit accepted the case and affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court explained that it cannot find the Federal Circuit’s decision implausible. Next, turning to the merits, the court found that the district court correctly found a lack of substantial evidence that the cease-and-desist letter materially caused Supertherm’s lost profits. Finally, because the district court correctly ruled that tolling does not apply, Chandler’s claims are time-barred. View "Chandler v. Phoenix Services" on Justia Law
Sanofi-Aventis U.S. v. Mylan, et al.
Plaintiff Sanofi-Aventis U.S., LLC (“Sanofi”) sued Defendants Mylan, Inc. and Mylan Specialty, LP (collectively “Mylan”) under Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Sanofi, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, alleged Mylan, the distributor of EpiPen, monopolized the epinephrine auto-injector market effectively and illegally foreclosing Auvi-Q, Sanofi’s innovative epinephrine auto-injector, from the market. The parties cross-moved for summary judgment. The district court, holding no triable issue of exclusionary conduct, granted Mylan’s motion for summary judgment. After careful consideration, the Tenth Circuit agreed and affirmed the district court. View "Sanofi-Aventis U.S. v. Mylan, et al." on Justia Law
Marion HealthCare, LLC. v. Southern Illinois Healthcare Services
A southern Illinois outpatient surgery clinic accused the area’s largest hospital system and its largest health insurer (Blue Cross) of violating federal and state antitrust laws by entering into contracts that designate the hospital but not the clinic as a Blue Cross preferred provider (in-network provider). A district judge granted judgment in favor of Blue Cross, reasoning that insurers are customers and cannot be liable for the practices of sellers with market power. The clinic and the hospital agreed that a magistrate judge could handle the rest of the case and enter a final judgment, 28 U.S.C. 636(c). Discovery followed. After reviewing a special master’s report, a magistrate granted the hospital summary judgment on the ground that the clinic had not been injured.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first noting that Blue Cross had not consented to a magistrate having final authority. However, Blue Cross received a district judge's decision and impliedly consented to the magistrate by submitting documentation. Neither federal nor state law prohibits preferred provider agreements; the agreements are not exclusive dealing or tie-in arrangements. The clinic "scarcely tries to show that it has been injured by reduced output or higher prices," nor does it allege that there is any historical link between the hospital’s insurance-contracting practices and either prices or output. View "Marion HealthCare, LLC. v. Southern Illinois Healthcare Services" on Justia Law
Examination Board, et al. v. International Association, et al.
Competing trade associations offered memberships to home inspectors, who typically inspect homes prior to home sales. Benefits of membership in the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) included online advertising to home buyers, educational resources, online training, and free services such as logo design. From 2015 to 2020, ASHI featured the slogan “American Society of Home Inspectors. Educated. Tested. Verified. Certified” on its website. Contending that tagline mislead consumers, InterNACHI sued ASHI under the federal Lanham Act, claiming the line constituted false advertising because it inaccurately portrayed ASHI’s entire membership as being educated, tested, verified, and certified, even though its membership includes so-called “novice” inspectors who had yet to complete training or become certified. InterNACHI argued this misleading advertising and ASHI’s willingness to promote novice inspectors to the public caused InterNACHI to lose potential members and dues revenues. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of ASHI, concluding no reasonable jury could find that InterNACHI was injured by ASHI’s allegedly false commercial advertising. To this, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred: because InterNACHI did not present any evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that InterNACHI was injured by ASHI’s slogan, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for ASHI. View "Examination Board, et al. v. International Association, et al." on Justia Law
USA, ex rel. Vermont National Telephone Company v. Northstar Spectrum, LLC
Vermont National Telephone Company filed a qui tam action against Northstar, SNR, DISH, and several affiliated companies (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging they violated the False Claims Act (“FCA”) by making false certifications and manipulating the Commission’s auction rules to secure fraudulent bidding credits on spectrum licenses. The district court dismissed the suit, resting its decision on the FCA’s “government-action bar” and its “demanding materiality standard.” The D.C. Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal finding that neither basis the district court invoked warranted dismissal. Defendants argued that the Commission levied civil money penalties by subjecting Northstar and SNR to default payment. The court reasoned that even assuming that these default payments are civil money penalties, they have no bearing on whether the Commission’s licensing proceeding is a “civil money penalty proceeding” because the default payments were not assessed during the licensing proceeding. Second, Defendants pointed out that the Commission may assess forfeiture penalties for willful failure to comply with any FCC rule or regulation. Commission regulations, however, authorize assessment of forfeiture penalties only in forfeiture proceedings. Third, Defendants alluded to "other penalties” that the Commission may impose, however, because the Commission had no authority to assess civil money penalties during its licensing proceeding, which evaluated only Northstar’s and SNR’s long-form applications and the petitions to deny them, the licensing proceeding was not an “administrative civil money penalty proceeding.” Finally, the court held that Vermont Telephone also satisfied Rule 9(b) by setting forth detailed allegations regarding the “time, place, and manner” of the fraudulent scheme. View "USA, ex rel. Vermont National Telephone Company v. Northstar Spectrum, LLC" on Justia Law
Automotive Parts Antitrust Litig.
In the Automotive Parts Antitrust multi-district litigation, a subset of consumers and businesses (End-Payor Plaintiffs), alleged that automotive-part manufacturers fixed prices in violation of antitrust laws and that they paid elevated prices for defendants’ parts or purchased or leased vehicles containing those parts. After eight years of motions, negotiations, approval hearings, and objections, the district court granted final approval to settlements between End-Payor Plaintiffs and defendants. The settlement agreements, the class notices, and plans of allocation for each settlement agreement defined the classes of plaintiffs to include consumers and businesses that bought or leased certain qualifying vehicles or paid to replace certain qualifying vehicle parts during designated time periods. The class definitions did not include insurers, assignees, or subrogees.FRS, a third-party company that manages and files claims for clients, later submitted claims on behalf of insurers that purchased or leased eligible vehicles for company use (Fleet Vehicles) and claims that are based on its clients’ claimed “subrogation rights” to class members’ claims. The district court denied FRS’s motion to intervene as untimely. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. FRS offers no legitimate excuse for failing to intervene after End-Payor Plaintiffs repeatedly expressed their adverse position; the district court alerted FRS to a deficient filing. End-Payor Plaintiffs would have suffered delay-related prejudice had the district court allowed intervention. View "Automotive Parts Antitrust Litig." on Justia Law
SK Trading International Co. Ltd. v. Superior Court
The state sued several oil and gas firms alleging their participation in a multiyear conspiracy to manipulate the California gasoline market to the detriment of California consumers. The complaint alleged violations of the Cartwright Act, Business and Professions Code section 16720, and the Unfair Competition Law, section 17200.Defendant SK Trading, a South Korean corporation, sought a writ of mandate to compel the trial court to reverse its order denying its motion to quash service of the summons for lack of personal jurisdiction. SK argued that its limited contacts with California were insufficient to support the court’s exercise of specific personal jurisdiction. The court of appeal denied the petition. SK Trading’s contacts with California supported the court’s exercise of specific personal jurisdiction; it purposefully engaged in activities that should have led it to reasonably anticipate being required to defend those activities in California legal proceedings. SK Trading has not established that the assumption of jurisdiction over it is unfair or unreasonable. There was evidence that SK Trading controlled and facilitated key aspects of the alleged conspiracy. The operative facts of the controversy are related to that contact with this state. View "SK Trading International Co. Ltd. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
California v. Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson, Ethicon, Inc., and Ethicon US, LLC (collectively, Ethicon) appealed after a trial court levied nearly $344 million in civil penalties against Ethicon for willfully circulating misleading medical device instructions and marketing communications that misstated, minimized, and/or omitted the health risks of Ethicon’s surgically-implantable transvaginal pelvic mesh products. The court found Ethicon committed 153,351 violations of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), and 121,844 violations of the False Advertising Law (FAL). The court imposed a $1,250 civil penalty for each violation. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in just one respect: in addition to penalizing Ethicon for its medical device instructions and printed marketing communications, the court penalized Ethicon for its oral marketing communications, specifically, for deceptive statements Ethicon purportedly made during one-on-one conversations with doctors, at Ethicon-sponsored lunch events, and at health fair events. However, there was no evidence of what Ethicon’s employees and agents actually said in any of these oral marketing communications. Therefore, the Court of Appeal concluded substantial evidence did not support the trial court’s factual finding that Ethicon’s oral marketing communications were likely to deceive doctors. Judgment was amended to strike the nearly $42 million in civil penalties that were imposed for these communications. View "California v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law
OLEAN WHOLESALE GROCERY CO-OP V. BUMBLE BEE FOODS LLC
The en banc court filed an opinion affirming the district court’s order certifying three subclasses of direct tuna purchasers (“DPP”) who alleged that the suppliers violated federal and state antitrust laws. The circuit court agreed with the district court and held that the purchasers’ statistical regression model was capable of showing that a price-fixing conspiracy caused class-wide antitrust impact.Plaintiffs must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the facts necessary to carry the burden of establishing that the prerequisites of Rule 23 are satisfied. The court held that in making the determinations necessary to find that the prerequisites of Rule 23(b)(3) are satisfied, the district court may weigh conflicting expert testimony and resolve expert disputes. Further, the court found when individualized questions relate to the injury status of class members, Rule 23(b)(3) requires that the court determine whether individualized inquiries about such matters would predominate. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class. Further, it held that the court did not err in determining that the evidence presented by the DPPs proved: (1) antitrust impact was capable of being established class-wide through common proof, and (2) that this common question predominated over individual questions. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the evidence presented by the “CFP” class of indirect purchasers of bulk-sized tuna products and the “EPP” class of individual end purchasers was capable of proving the element of antitrust impact. View "OLEAN WHOLESALE GROCERY CO-OP V. BUMBLE BEE FOODS LLC" on Justia Law