Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The case involves Symons Emergency Specialties (Symons), a provider of ambulance services, and the City of Riverside. The City regulates ambulance services within its limits under the Riverside Municipal Code (RMC), which requires operators to obtain a valid franchise or permit. Symons filed a civil complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the City, arguing that the RMC section requiring a permit is invalid under the Emergency Medical Services System and Prehospital Emergency Medical Care Act (EMS Act). The dispute centered on whether the City had regulated nonemergency ambulance services as of June 1, 1980, which would allow it to continue doing so under the EMS Act's grandfathering provisions.The trial court found in favor of the City, concluding that Symons had failed to meet its burden of proof. Symons appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting certain testimonies, that the court's factual finding was not supported by substantial evidence, and that the RMC section violated federal anti-trust law.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Two affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court found no error in the admission of testimonies, concluded that substantial evidence supported the trial court's findings, and rejected Symons's anti-trust argument. The court held that the City's regulation of ambulance services did not violate the EMS Act or federal anti-trust law. View "Symons Emergency Specialties v. City of Riverside" on Justia Law

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The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated an investigation into potentially anti-competitive practices in the real estate industry by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In November 2020, the DOJ and NAR reached a settlement, and the DOJ sent a letter to NAR stating that it had closed its investigation and that NAR was not required to respond to two outstanding investigative subpoenas. However, in July 2021, the DOJ withdrew the proposed consent judgment, reopened its investigation, and issued a new investigative subpoena. NAR petitioned the district court to set aside the subpoena, arguing that its issuance violated a promise made by the DOJ in the 2020 closing letter. The district court granted NAR’s petition, concluding that the new subpoena was barred by a validly executed settlement agreement.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed with the district court's decision. The court held that the plain language of the disputed 2020 letter permits the DOJ to reopen its investigation. The court noted that the closing of an investigation does not guarantee that the investigation would stay closed forever. The court also pointed out that NAR gained several benefits from the closing of the DOJ’s pending investigation in 2020, including relief from its obligation to respond to the two outstanding subpoenas. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "National Association of Realtors v. United States" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in a case brought by the State of Missouri against several Chinese entities, including the government of the People's Republic of China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and others. Missouri accused the defendants of negligence in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging that they allowed the virus to spread worldwide, engaged in a campaign to keep other countries from learning about the virus, and hoarded personal protective equipment (PPE). The court decided that most of Missouri's claims were blocked by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign states from lawsuits in U.S. courts. However, the court allowed one claim to proceed: the allegation that China hoarded PPE while the rest of the world was unaware of the extent of the virus. The court held that this claim fell under the "commercial activity" exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as it involved alleged anti-competitive behavior that had a direct effect in the United States. The case was remanded for further proceedings on this claim. View "The State of Missouri v. The Peoples Republic of China" on Justia Law

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Defendant Klarna, Inc. ("Klarna") provides a "buy now, pay later" service that allows shoppers to buy a product and pay for it in four equal installments over time without incurring any interest or fees. Plaintiff paid for two online purchases using Klarna. Plaintiff incurred $70 in overdraft fees. Plaintiff brought this action on behalf of herself and a class of similarly situated consumers, alleging that Klarna misrepresents and conceals the risk of bank-overdraft fees that consumers face when using its pay-over-time service and asserting claims for common-law fraud and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practice Act ("CUTPA"). Klarna moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied Klarna's motion.   The Second Circuit reversed he district court's order and remanded with instructions to grant Klarna's motion to compel arbitration. The court explained that when Plaintiff arrived at the Klarna Widget, she knew well that purchasing the GameStop item with Klarna meant that she was entering into a continuing relationship with Klarna, one that would endure at least until she repaid all four installments. The Klarna Widget provided clear notice that there were terms that would govern this continuing relationship. A reasonable internet user, therefore, would understand that finalizing the GameStop transaction, entering into a forward-looking relationship with Klarna, and receiving the benefit of Klarna's service would constitute assent to those terms. The court explained that Plaintiff was on inquiry notice that her "agreement to the payment terms," necessarily encompassed more than the information provided on the Klarna Widget, and the burden was then on her to find out to what terms she was accepting. View "Najah Edmundson v. Klarna Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Van Sant & Co. (Van Sant) owned and operated a mobile home park in Calhan, Colorado, for a number of years. In 2018, Van Sant began to publicly explore the possibility of converting its mobile home park to an RV park. In October 2018, Calhan adopted an ordinance that imposed regulations on the development of new RV parks, but also included a grandfather clause that effectively exempted the two existing RV parks in Calhan, one of which was connected to the grandparents of two members of Calhan’s Board of Trustees (Board) who voted in favor of the new RV park regulations. Van Sant subsequently filed suit against Calhan, several members of its Board, the owners of one of the existing RV parks, and other related individuals. asserting antitrust claims under the Sherman Act, as well as substantive due process and equal protection claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants successfully moved for summary judgment. Van Sant appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Van Sant & Co. v. Town of Calhan, et al." on Justia Law

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Barber Group, Inc., doing business as Barber Honda (Barber)—a car dealer in Bakersfield, California—brought an establishment protest to the California New Motor Vehicle Board (Board), challenging a decision by American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (Honda) to open a new dealership about nine miles away. The Board overruled Barber’s protest, and the trial court denied Barber’s petition for administrative mandate challenging the Board’s decision. On appeal, Barber argued the Board prejudicially erred when it: (1) relied on Honda’s dealer performance standards at the protest hearing without first deciding whether those standards were reasonable; (2) permitted the proposed new dealership to exercise a peremptory challenge to an administrative law judge initially assigned to the protest hearing, contrary to notions of fairness and the Board’s own order in the matter; and (3) denied Barber’s request that it take official notice of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Barber Group, Inc. v. New Motor Vehicle Bd." on Justia Law

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Magellan, a manufacturer of electronic nicotine delivery systems (“ENDS”) products, sought authorization from the FDA to market ENDS under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (the “TCA”). The FDA denied Magellan's application related to the company's flavored ENDS products, finding insufficient evidence showing that marketing the pods would be appropriate for the protection of public health, a finding that requires denial of an application under the TCA. Magellan petitioned for review, arguing the FDA action was arbitrary and capricious. Magellan also argues that the FDA exceeded its statutory authority by requiring applicants to demonstrate that their flavored ENDS products are more effective than tobacco-flavored products at promoting cessation or switching from combustible cigarettes to ENDS products.The Second Circuit affirmed. The FDA did not impose a new evidentiary standard on Magellan; therefore, the FDA did not need to provide notice or consider its reliance interests. Thus, the court concluded that the FDA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously. View "Magellan Technology, Inc. v. United States Food and Drug Administration" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Attorney General brought this action against defendants, Living Essentials, LLC and Innovation Ventures, LLC, alleging that they had made representations about their products that violated two different provisions of the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA). The trial court ruled for defendants, explaining that the relevant provisions of the UTPA required the State to prove that the misrepresentations were “material to consumer purchasing decisions,” and that the State had not done so. The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. The Oregon Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review to consider whether the lower courts correctly construed the statute. After such review, the Supreme Court concluded, contrary to the trial court and the Court of Appeals, that the UTPA provisions at issue contained no “material to consumer purchasing decisions” requirement. The Supreme Court also rejected defendants’ argument that, without such a requirement, the provisions facially violated the free speech provisions of the State and federal constitutions. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded to that court for further proceedings. View "State ex rel Rosenblum v. Living Essentials, LLC" on Justia Law

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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

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During the 2008 recession, Chicago faced a $150 million shortfall in revenue and sought an alternative to raising taxes. The city awarded a 75-year Concession over designated parking spaces to the private firm CPM, which agreed to give Chicago an upfront payment of more than a billion dollars. After CPM took over, the price of parking in areas covered by the Concession more than doubled. Litigation in both state and federal courts followed. A federal class action filed by “two car drivers who live in Chicago,” asserted that CPM has violated the federal antitrust laws, 15 U.S.C. 1, 2.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the antitrust theories as barred by the state-action immunity doctrine. The Concession represents a use of municipal authority to substitute, during the term of the lease, exclusive private operation for direct city operation of specified areas of Chicago’s on-street parking facilities. It swaps one “monopolist” (Chicago) for another (CPM). Chicago had the authority to enter into the Concession and has reserved meaningful powers to oversee and regulate CPM’s performance. The court also theorized that there might not be a monopoly; Chicago cars can be found in apartment building parking garages, private residential garages, private lots, public lots, unregulated streets, and metered parking. View "Uetricht v. Chicago Parking Meters, LLC" on Justia Law