Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals
RTR Techs., Inc. v. Helming
A Massachusetts corporation and its principals sued their quondam accountant and his firm (collectively, Defendants), alleging that Defendants negligently advised them to file amended corporate and personal tax returns that had the effect of substantially increasing the principals' liability and destabilizing the company. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants but rejected their request for attorneys' fees. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) concluding that a three-year statute of limitations applied to bar the maintenance of Plaintiffs' tort and contract claims; (2) dismissing Plaintiffs' unfair trade practices claim; and (3) denying Defendants' request for attorneys' fees. View "RTR Techs., Inc. v. Helming" on Justia Law
Saint Consulting Group, Inc. v. Endurance Am. Specialty, Inc.
This dispute between The Saint Consulting Group (Saint) and its liability insurer, Endurance American Specialty Insurance Company (Endurance), stemmed from Endurance's refusal to defend Saint in a lawsuit against Saint in the Northern District of Illinois. The district court dismissed Saint's lawsuit against Endurance based on an exclusion in the policy that stated explicitly that the policy does not apply to any claim based upon or arising out of any actual or alleged violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act or any similar provision of any state law. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the second complaint alleged that Saint engaged in an anti-competitive scheme the exclusion was triggered; and (2) the policy did not cover the negligent spoliation claim in the first complaint. View "Saint Consulting Group, Inc. v. Endurance Am. Specialty, Inc." on Justia Law
Gonzalez-Maldonado v. MMM Health Care, Inc.
Two physicians who contracted with HMOs refused to accept capitation payments in place of fee-for-service payments, so the HMOs dropped the physicians' contracts. The physicians brought constitutional and antitrust claims against the companies, which the district court rejected on a motion to dismiss. The physicians appealed. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the appellees were not governmental actors, Appellants' constitutional claims failed; and (2) because the appellees that Appellants contended violated the Sherman Act were not independent firms and were, rather, wholly owned subsidiaries of the same parent company, the appellees could not have violated the Act's conspiracy prohibition. View "Gonzalez-Maldonado v. MMM Health Care, Inc." on Justia Law
Contour Design, Inc. v. Chance Mold Steel Co., Ltd.
in this trade secret misappropriation and breach of contract case, defendant Chance Mold Steel Co. (Chance) appealed from a permanent injunction and from a jury award of damages. The injunction, based on a finding of contract breach, prohibited Chance from selling, displaying, manufacturing, or assisting others in manufacturing a number of ergonomic computer mouse products. The injunction barred sale of specific products that were materially identical to products Chance had previously manufactured for Contour Design, Inc. (Contour) and a new product known as the ErgoRoller. Chance challenged the scope of the injunction and contended that the jury improperly awarded lost profits damages. The First Circuit Court of Appeals (1) reversed the injunction as applied to the ErgoRoller, holding that the record did not support the finding that Chance breached the contract in producing the ErgoRoller; (2) affirmed the scope of the injunction as applied to the other enjoined products; and (3) affirmed the damages award. View "Contour Design, Inc. v. Chance Mold Steel Co., Ltd." on Justia Law
Liu v. Amerco
A proposed consent order from an FTC investigation indicated that U-Haul attempted to implement a scheme to collude with competitors, Budget and Penske, to raise prices for truck rentals. The FTC concluded that U-Haul's conduct violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1). The proposed consent order was designed to prevent collusion. U-Haul consented to the relief, but did not admit the conduct or violation. A consumer filed a complaint charging U-Haul with violating Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A by engaging in an attempted price-fixing scheme and seeking damages on behalf of a large class. The suit, a follow-on action after a proposed government consent decree, is common in antitrust cases. Because the FTC Act contains no private right of action and the Sherman Act is of doubtful application to price-fixing, the suit rested chapter 93A, which prohibits "[u]nfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices," and permits consumer class actions. The complaint alleged that U-Haul's actions caused plaintiff to pay at least 10 percent more for truck rentals than she would have absent the unlawful action. The district court dismissed, stating that the complaint failed plausibly to allege injury. The First Circuit vacated, finding the claim plausible. View "Liu v. Amerco" on Justia Law
Welch Foods, Inc. v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins.Co. of Pittsburgh
Plaintiff, sued by a competitor and by consumers for unfair trade practices, false and misleading advertising, and deceptive labeling, among other claims, sought indemnity and defense costs from its insurer. The insurer claimed that the suit fell within an exclusion for "antitrust violations, price fixing, price discriminations, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices and/or monopolies." The district court ruled in favor of the insurer. The First Circuit affirmed, finding that the policy headings were not determinative and that the paragraph at issue clearly excluded coverage. View "Welch Foods, Inc. v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins.Co. of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law
Sterling Merch., Inc. v. Nestle SA
Plaintiff alleged antitrust violations of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 12-27, and Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1-7, and violations of Puerto Rico law based on defendants' merger and later activities. Plaintiff has been a competitor with defendant in the ice cream distribution market. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants.The First Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff was not negatively affected by purported violations, there is no evidence of increased consumer prices or reduced output. The challenged conduct has been in place for at least two years and the remaining market remains robustly competitive as evidenced by ongoing entry, profitability of rivals, and stability of their aggregate market share.View "Sterling Merch., Inc. v. Nestle SA" on Justia Law
Hunt v. Golden Rule Ins. Co.
The insured was treated as an outpatient for "mental or nervous disorder" in 2005-2007, allegedly incurring expenses of more than $125,000. In 2006 the company informed her that it had already paid $8,506 and would pay only $1,494 more toward the lifetime cap of $10,000. The district court held that the contract was not ambiguous and that the limit was not prohibited by New Hampshire law. The First Circuit affirmed. The policy limit for mental health benefits, stated as "the amount shown on page 3" is not ambiguous simply because that page refers to both the "Mental and Nervous Disorder Limit" of $10,000, and the "Maximum Benefit Limit Per Covered Person" of $1 million. A state law prohibiting unfair trade practices, including discrimination in insurance does not provide a private right of action until after the claimant obtains a favorable ruling from the insurance commissioner.