Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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
Thomas Styczinski v. Grace Arnold
Appellants (the “Bullion Traders”) are a collection of in-state and out-of-state precious metal traders or representatives thereof challenging the constitutionality of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 80G, which regulates bullion transactions. The Bullion Traders argue the statute violates the dormant Commerce Clause. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s partial grant of the Commissioner’s motion to dismiss and the district court’s partial denial of the Bullion Traders’ motion for summary judgment. On remand, the court left to the district court to decide in the first instance whether the extraterritorial provisions of Chapter 80G, as amended, are severable from the remainder of the statute. The court explained that certain in-state obligations, such as a registration fee for traders doing business in Minnesota, even when calculated considering out-of-state transactions, do not control out-of-state commerce. However, Chapter 80G does not merely burden in-state dealers with a monetary obligation that considers both in-state and out-of-state transactions. Rather, it prohibits an in-state dealer who meets the $25,000 threshold from conducting any bullion transaction, including out-of-state transactions, without first registering with the Commissioner. View "Thomas Styczinski v. Grace Arnold" on Justia Law
Inline Packaging, LLC v. Graphic Packaging International, LLC
Inline filed suit against its competitor, Graphic, alleging antitrust and tortious interference claims related to the susceptor-packaging market. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Graphic, holding that the district court did not err concluding that there was no genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether Graphic fraudulently procured patents on packaging concepts and designs through false claims of inventorship of the asserted patents and fraudulently concealed prior sales of drawing sample sleeves. In this case, Inline cannot establish that Graphic committed knowing and willful fraud and thus his monopolization claim under 15 U.S.C. 2 failed. Because Inline did not evidence fraud related to Graphic's procurement of the asserted patents and its prior sales of drawing sample sleeves 50019D/F, it has not established why the same set of facts and evidence would render Graphic's patent-infringement litigation objectively baseless. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the sham-litigation claim.The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the discount-bundling claim because Inline failed to show that Graphic held sufficient monopoly or market power, and the district court adequately assessed the record and did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Inline's economic expert's untimely market opinion. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting Inline's exclusive dealing claim and tortious interference claim. View "Inline Packaging, LLC v. Graphic Packaging International, LLC" on Justia Law
D&G, Inc. v. C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc.
D&G filed an antitrust suit against C&S, on behalf of all grocery retailers, alleging that C&S agreed with another grocery wholesaler, SuperValu, not to compete for customers in certain geographical areas. The jury returned a verdict in favor of C&S.The Eighth Circuit held that the jury instructions fairly and adequately submitted the issues and affirmed the judgment. The court explained that while it is true that an agreement to allocate either customers or territories could violate the Sherman Act, D&G's theory in this case melded the two. The court concluded that it was understandable and consistent with the evidence and arguments for the district court to instruct that D&G must prove that "C&S agreed that it would not compete with Supervalu for new customers in certain territories or geographic areas." Furthermore, the reference in the verdict form to "an Unwritten Agreement to divide territories and customers along geographic lines" is consistent with D&G's primary theory throughout the case—namely, that C&S and SuperValu agreed to allocate new customers in the Midwest to one company and new customers in New England to the other. Therefore, there was ample room under the jury instructions to find liability. Finally, the court was not convinced that the verdict form misled the jury. View "D&G, Inc. v. C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc." on Justia Law
Federal Trade Commission v. Sanford Health
The FTC and the State of North Dakota moved to enjoin Sanford Bismarck's acquisition of Mid Dakota, alleging that the merger violated section 7 of the Clayton Act. The district court determined that plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing the acquisition would substantially lessen competition in four types of physician services in the Bismarck-Mandan area.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction, holding that the district court did not improperly shift the ultimate burden of persuasion to defendants and properly followed the analytical framework in U.S. v. Baker Hughes, Inc., 908 F.ed 981 (D.C. Cir. 1990); the district court did not clearly err in defining the relevant market; and the district court's finding on merger-specific efficiencies was not clear error. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Sanford Health" on Justia Law
Park Irmat Drug Corp. v. Express Scripts Holding Co.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Irmat's complaint against Express Scripts, alleging various contract claims, a promissory estoppel claim, and violations of federal antitrust laws and state Any Willing Provider laws. The court held that the inclusion of Express Scripts's unilateral right to terminate the agreement between the parties upon thirty days written notice was, by itself, insufficient to support a claim of unconscionability; the agreement was not unconscionable because it was a non-negotiable form contract (i.e., a contract of adhesion); Express Scripts did not violate its duty of good faith and fair dealing when it terminated Irmat from its network; and the e-mail Express Scripts sent to Irmat in August 2015 did not constitute a novation where it lacked essential contractual provisions.The court also held that Irmat failed to plausibly plead promissory estoppel. Finally, the court rejected Irmat's claim that Express Scripts violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, and that Express Scripts violated the Any Willing Provider laws. Irmat was not entitled to leave to amend its complaint. View "Park Irmat Drug Corp. v. Express Scripts Holding Co." on Justia Law
Ortiz v. Ferrellgas Partners, L.P.
Defendants are the nation’s largest distributors of pre-filled propane exchange tanks, which come in a standard size. Before 2008, Defendants filled the tanks with 17 pounds of propane. In 2008, due to rising prices, Defendants reduced the amount in each tato 15 pounds, maintaining the same price. Plaintiffs, indirect purchasers, who bought tanks from retailers, claimed this effectively raised the price. In 2009, plaintiffs filed a class action alleging conspiracy under the Sherman Act. Plaintiffs settled with both Defendants. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against Defendants, which settled in 2015 by consent orders, for conspiring to artificially inflate tank prices. In 2014, another group of indirect purchasers (Ortiz) brought a class action against Defendants, alleging: “Despite their settlements, Defendants continued to conspire, and ... maintained their illegally agreed-upon fill levels, preserving the unlawfully inflated prices." The Ortiz suit became part of a multidistrict proceeding that included similar allegations by direct purchasers (who bought tanks directly from Defendants for resale). The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the direct-purchaser suit as time-barred, holding that each sale in a price-fixing conspiracy starts the statutory period running again. The court subsequently held that the indirect purchasers inadequately pled an injury-in-fact and lack standing to pursue an injunction to increase the fill levels of the tanks and may not seek disgorgement of profits. View "Ortiz v. Ferrellgas Partners, L.P." on Justia Law
Larson v. Ferrellgas Partners
Plaintiffs filed suit against Ferrellgas and AmeriGas under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, alleging that defendants artificially inflated prices for propane gas tanks and had conspiratorial communications about pricing and fill levels. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims as barred by the statute of limitations. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court erred in dismissing the claims because each sale to the plaintiffs in a price-fixing conspiracy starts the statutory period running again. In this case, the amended complaint adequately pleaded a continuing violation sufficient to restart the statute of limitations. View "Larson v. Ferrellgas Partners" on Justia Law