Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
Allstate Insurance Co. v. Fougere
The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of Allstate Insurance Company and dismissing the counterclaims brought by two of Allstate's former agents - James Fougere and Sarah Brody-Isbill - and A Better Insurance Agency, Inc. (ABIA) (collectively, Appellants), holding that there was no error.At issue in the underlying case were spreadsheets that Allstate alleged contained trade secrets misappropriated by Brody-Isbill and Fougere, thus breaching their contracts with Allstate. Allstate filed suit alleging claims for, among other things, breach of contract and trade secrets, violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 28 U.S.C. 1836. Appellants counterclaimed, alleging claims for, inter alia, wrongful interference with contractual relations and violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. The district court granted summary judgment for Allstate and dismissed Appellants' counterclaims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in dismissing Appellants' counterclaims; and (2) did not abuse its discretion in granting summary judgment to Allstate on liability for its trade secret and contract claims against Appellants. View "Allstate Insurance Co. v. Fougere" on Justia Law
Anastasia Wullschleger v. Royal Canin U.S.A., Inc.
Plaintiff’s dog, Clinton, suffered from health problems. The solution, at least according to a veterinarian, was to feed him specialized dog food available only by prescription. It has different ingredients than regular dog food but includes no special medication. Prescription dog food is expensive. The crux of Plaintiff’s complaint is that the “prescription” requirement is misleading because the Food and Drug Administration never actually evaluates the product. And the damages came from its higher sales price. The original complaint, which included only state-law claims, reflected these theories. Brought on behalf of all similarly situated Missouri consumers, it alleged a violation of Missouri’s antitrust laws, claims under Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act, and unjust enrichment. Plaintiff initially filed her complaint in state court, but Royal Canin and Nestle Purina quickly removed it to federal court. The district court then remanded it. The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and send this case back to the district court with directions to remanded it to Missouri state court. The court explained that just on the face of the amended complaint, the answer is clear. Only the carryover claims and their civil-conspiracy counterpart remain, and neither one presents a federal question. It is no longer possible to say that “dependence on federal law permeates the allegations” of Plaintiff’s complaint. Further, the court wrote that the manufacturers hope to keep the case in federal court through supplemental jurisdiction. It is too late, however, to turn back the clock. View "Anastasia Wullschleger v. Royal Canin U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law
Vitamins Online, Inc. v. HeartWise, Inc.
Plaintiff Vitamins Online, Inc. believed that its competitor, Defendant Heartwise, Inc. (d/b/a NatureWise), was misrepresenting the ingredients of its competitive nutritional supplements and manipulating those products’ Amazon reviews. Vitamins Online sued for violations of the Lanham Act and Utah’s common law Unfair Competition Law. The case proceeded to a bench trial, at the conclusion of which the district court ruled for Vitamins Online and ordered disgorgement of NatureWise’s profits for 2012 and 2013. The court also awarded Vitamins Online attorney fees and costs for NatureWise’s willful misrepresentation and for various discovery abuses. Both parties appealed. NatureWise contended the district court erred in finding that it made false or misleading representations about its own nutritional supplements’ ingredients and its Amazon reviews. NatureWise further asserted the district court erred in concluding that Vitamins Online was entitled to a presumption of injury for these misrepresentations. Vitamins Online contended the district court erred in bifurcating Vitamins Online’s injury into two separate time periods and requiring Vitamins Online to prove that a presumption of injury was applicable separately for each period. Vitamins Online also argued the district court erred in denying disgorgement for the second time period, and for failing to consider an award of punitive damages and an injunction as to NatureWise’s further manipulation of reviews. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court did not clearly err in applying a presumption of injury, and affirmed the award of profits, attorney fees, and costs, and found no reversable error in the amount awarded. The Court also held the district court failed to consider properly Vitamins Online’s request for punitive damages and an injunction; the Court remanded for the district court to reconsider. View "Vitamins Online, Inc. v. HeartWise, Inc." on Justia Law
Federal Trade Commission v. Yu Lin
The appeal is another installment in a series of disputes involving an enforcement action by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against a group of fraudulent real estate developers (the Sanctuary Belize enforcement action). Appellants, a group of 14 individual investors and a family-owned corporation moved to intervene in an action brought by others and sought relief from the district court’s judgment. Appellants did not do so until after the district court had entered final judgment and that judgment had been appealed to the Fourth Circuit. Because the Sanctuary Belize enforcement action was already on appeal when Appellants filed their motions, the district court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain those motions. It held alternatively that the motions should be denied as meritless. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court held that a district court lacks jurisdiction over a motion to intervene while an appeal is pending, regardless of who noted the appeal. Further, the court explained that because the district court correctly determined it lacked jurisdiction on a matter that had been appealed to the Fourth Circuit, the court held that it only has jurisdiction to review that decision, not to entertain the underlying merits. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Yu Lin" on Justia Law
State v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the circuit court holding that Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi had violated Hawai'i's Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices law (UDAP) by misleading the public about the safety and efficacy of their anitplatelet drug, Plavix, holding that remand was required.The circuit court concluded that Defendants misled Hawai'i consumers by failing to warn them that Plavix was less effective for poor responders, granted the State's motion for partial summary judgment, and imposed an $834 million penalty. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the circuit court's deceptive acts or practices holding, holding that the summary judgment ruling circumscribed Defendants' ability to present a full defense and affected the penalty award, requiring a new trial; (2) affirmed the holding that Defendants committed unfair acts under UDAP; and (3) held that Defendants' procedural arguments failed. View "State v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co." on Justia Law
In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust
A putative class of over 12 million merchants brought this antitrust action under the Sherman Act against Visa U.S.A. Inc., MasterCard International Inc., and numerous banks that serve as payment-card issuers for those networks. Plaintiffs alleged that Visa and MasterCard adopted and enforced rules and practices relating to payment cards that had the combined effect of injuring merchants by allowing Visa and MasterCard to charge supracompetitive fees (known as “interchange fees”) on each payment card transaction. After nearly fifteen years of litigation, the parties agreed to a settlement of roughly $ 5.6 billion, which was approved by the district court over numerous objections. In so doing, $900,000 in service awards was granted to lead plaintiffs, and roughly $523 million was granted in attorneys’ fees. Appellants are various objectors who argue that the district court erred when it certified the class, approved the settlement, granted service awards and computed attorneys’ fees. The Second Circuit affirmed in all respects the district court’s orders to the extent they constituted a final judgment, with the exception that the court directed the district court to reduce the service award to class representatives to the extent that its size was increased by time spent in lobbying efforts that would not increase the recovery of damages. The court made no ruling as to how damages should be allocated between branded oil companies and their branded service station franchisees, the reasonableness of the special master’s ultimate findings, or the legality of releasing an as-of-yet hypothetical future claim. View "In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust" on Justia Law
National Horsemen’s Benevolent v. Black
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) is a federal law that nationalizes governance of the thoroughbred horseracing industry. To formulate detailed rules on an array of topics, HISA empowers a private entity called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (the “Authority”), which operates under Federal Trade Commission oversight. Soon after its passage, HISA was challenged by various horsemen’s associations, which were later joined by Texas and the state’s racing commission. Plaintiffs argued HISA is facially unconstitutional because it delegates government power to a private entity without sufficient agency supervision. The district court acknowledged that the plaintiffs’ “concerns are legitimate,” that HISA has “unique features,” and that its structure “pushes the boundaries of public-private collaboration.” Nonetheless, the court rejected the private non-delegation challenge. The Fifth Circuit declared that the HISA is unconstitutional because it violates the private non-delegation doctrine. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded. The court explained that while acknowledging the Authority’s “sweeping” power, the district court thought it was balanced by the FTC’s “equally” sweeping oversight. Not so. HISA restricts FTC review of the Authority’s proposed rules. If those rules are “consistent” with HISA’s broad principles, the FTC must approve them. And even if it finds an inconsistency, the FTC can only suggest changes. What’s more, the FTC concedes it cannot review the Authority’s policy choices. The Authority’s power outstrips any private delegation the Supreme Court or the Fifth Circuit has allowed. Thus the court declared HISA facially unconstitutional. View "National Horsemen's Benevolent v. Black" on Justia Law
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. District Court
The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief in this challenge to a district court order reinstating a claim against a cigarette manufacturer under the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act (NDTPA), holding that mandamus relief was not warranted.Plaintiffs brought filed suit against Petitioner, a cigarette manufacturer, alleging civil conspiracy and a violation of the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act (NDTPA). The district court granted Petitioner's motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiffs were not consumer fraud victims under Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.600(1) because they never used Petitioner's products. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiffs were not consumer fraud victims under the statute. The district court then granted reconsideration, concluding that the earlier dismissal order was erroneous. Petitioner then brought this petition, arguing that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the deceptive trade practices claim against Petitioner because they never used Petitioner's products. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that the allegations in the complaint were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. District 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
Leong v. Honolulu Ford, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the district court's order on motion for summary judgment and judgment, holding that the ICA erred when it affirmed the district court regarding Plaintiff-buyers' claims alleging unfair or deceptive acts or practices (UDAP) remaining after summary judgment.Following the execution of two purchase agreements, Buyers took possession of the vehicle in dispute in this case, which, unbeknownst to Buyers at the time, had a defective clutch assembly. Seller refused to repair the vehicle at no cost to Buyers or to return Buyers' deposit. Buyers brought this action alleging that Seller had engaged in UDAP. The district court granted summary judgment for Seller and then entered judgment against Buyers on all remaining claims. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts' judgments in part, holding that the district court erred in interpreting Haw. Rev. Stat. 481J-2 to conclude that the warranty for used motor vehicles does not cover a clutch assembly. View "Leong v. Honolulu Ford, Inc. " on Justia Law