Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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RDC is a direct purchaser and wholesaler of Remicade, the brand name of infliximab, a “biologic infusion drug” manufactured by J&J and used to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. For many years, Remicade was the only infliximab drug available. That position was threatened when the FDA began approving “biosimilars,” produced by other companies and deemed by the FDA to have no clinically meaningful differences from Remicade. RDC alleged that J&J sought to maintain Remicade’s monopoly by engaging in an anticompetitive “Biosimilar Readiness Plan,” which consisted of imposing biosimilar-exclusion contracts on insurers that either require insurers to deny coverage for biosimilars altogether or impose unreasonable preconditions governing coverage; multi-product bundling of J&J’s Remicade with other J&J drugs, biologics, and medical devices; and exclusionary agreements and bundling arrangements with healthcare providers. RDC’s own contractual relationship with J&J is limited to a 2015 Distribution Agreement, which is not alleged to be part of J&J’s Plan. The Agreement contains an arbitration clause, applicable to any claim “arising out of or relating to the Agreement. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit held that RDC’s antitrust claims do “arise out of or relate to” the Agreement and must be referred to arbitration. View "In re: Remicade (Direct Purchaser) Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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GN and Plantronics manufacture telephone headsets, selling the headsets to customers through distributors. Under the voluntary Plantronics-Only Distributor (POD) program, distributors receive incentives such as favorable credit terms, rebates, and website support in exchange for not purchasing headsets directly from other manufacturers and not marketing competitors’ products on resellers’ websites. GN sent Plantronics a demand letter and filed suit in 2012, alleging that Plantronics’ POD program constituted monopolization. Plantronics issued a litigation hold to relevant employees, provided training sessions to ensure compliance, and sent quarterly reminders requiring acknowledgment of compliance. Plantronics’ Senior Vice President of Sales, Houston, nonetheless instructed employees to delete emails that referenced Plantronics’ competitive practices or its competitors. In 2014, Plantronics’ Associate General Counsel learned of Houston’s conduct, instituted a litigation hold on Houston’s assistant, and requested back-up tapes of Houston’s email account. Plantronics engaged its discovery vendor and a leading forensics expert to try to recover Houston’s emails. Some were recovered. The spoliation, however, continued. Plantronics did not complete its recovery efforts and destroyed the back-up tapes. During depositions, Plantronics executives were evasive. GN moved for a default liability judgment in light of the spoliation. The district court found that Plantronics acted in “bad faith” with an “intent to deprive GN” but denied the motion and issued a permissive adverse inference instruction to the jury, fined Plantronics three million dollars, and ordered it to pay GN’s spoliation-related fees. GN subsequently unsuccessfully sought to present evidence of spoliation. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plantronics. The Third Circuit reversed in part and remanded for a new trial, after upholding the denial of the motion for default judgment. The court committed reversible error when it excluded GN’s expert testimony on the scope of Plantronics’ spoliation. View "GN Netcom Inc. v. Plantronics Inc." on Justia Law

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Spartan, which operated on St. Croix, sought to displace Heavy Materials as the sole provider of ready-mix concrete on St. Thomas. Upon entering the St. Thomas market, Spartan started a price war that caused financial losses to Spartan while Heavy Materials retained its dominant position. After three years of fierce competition, the companies reached a truce: Spartan agreed to sell on St. Croix while Heavy Materials would keep selling on St. Thomas. Spartan then sued Argos, a bulk cement vendor, alleging violations of the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. 13(a), by giving Heavy Materials a 10 percent volume discount during the price war. The district court entered judgment for Argos and denied Spartan leave to amend its complaint to include two tort claims, finding undue delay and prejudice. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although Argos gave Heavy Materials alone a 10 percent volume discount on concrete, Spartan presented no evidence linking this discount to its inability to compete in the St. Thomas market. Spartan did compete with Heavy Materials for three years and not only lowered its retail prices, but also began a price war and achieved a nearly 30 percent share of the St. Thomas retail ready-mix concrete market. View "Spartan Concrete Products LLC v. Argos USVI Corp." on Justia Law

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Shire manufactured and marketed the lucrative drug Vancocin, which is used to treat a life-threatening gastrointestinal infection. After Shire learned that manufacturers were considering making generic equivalents to Vancocin, it inundated the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with allegedly meritless filings to delay approval of those generics. The FDA eventually rejected Shire’s filings and approved generic equivalents to Vancocin. The filings resulted in a high cost to consumers. Shire had delayed generic entry for years and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Nearly five years later, after Shire had divested itself of Vancocin, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed suit against Shire under Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 53(b), seeking a permanent injunction and restitution, and alleging that Shire’s petitioning was an unfair method of competition. The district court dismissed, finding that the FTC’s allegations of long-past petitioning activity failed to satisfy Section 13(b)’s requirement that Shire “is violating” or “is about to violate” the law. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting “the FTC’s invitation to stretch Section 13(b) beyond its clear text.” The FTC admits that Shire is not currently violating the law and did not allege that Shire is about to violate the law. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Shire ViroPharma Inc" on Justia Law

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In March 2015, the Boards of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth formally approved a plan to merge. They had announced the proposal a year earlier; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were already investigating the impact of the proposed merger. This joint probe resulted in the FTC filing an administrative complaint alleging that the merger violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. The FTC scheduled an administrative hearing for May 2016. The Commonwealth and the FTC jointly sued Hershey and Pinnacle under Section 16 of the Clayton Act, and Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 53(b) seeking a preliminary injunction. In September 2016, the Third CIrcuit reversed the district court and directed it to preliminarily enjoin the merger “pending the outcome of the FTC’s administrative adjudication.” Hershey and Pinnacle terminated their Agreement. The Commonwealth then moved for attorneys’ fees and costs, asserting that it “substantially prevailed” under Section 16 of the Clayton Act. The district court denied the motion, finding the Commonwealth had not “substantially prevailed” under Section 16. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that it had ordered the injunction based on Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, not Section 16 of the Clayton Act. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Penn State Hershey Medical Center" on Justia Law

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LifeWatch is one of the two largest sellers of telemetry monitors, a type of outpatient cardiac monitoring devices used to diagnose and treat heart arrhythmias, which may signal or lead to more serious medical complications. An arrhythmia can be without noticeable symptoms. Other outpatient cardiac monitors also record the electrical activity of a patient’s heart to catch any instance of an arrhythmia but they vary in price, method of data capture, and mechanism by which the data are transmitted for diagnosis. LifeWatch sued the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and five of its member insurance plan administrators under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, claiming they impermissibly conspired to deny coverage of telemetry monitors as “not medically necessary” or “investigational,” although the medical community, other insurers, and independent arbiters viewed it as befitting the standard of care. The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the complaint. LifeWatch plausibly stated a claim and has antitrust standing. That so many sophisticated third parties allegedly view telemetry monitors as medically necessary or meeting the standard of care undercuts Blue Cross’s theory that nearly three dozen Plans independently made the opposite determination for 10 consecutive years. Read in the light most favorable to LifeWatch, the complaint alleges competition among all outpatient cardiac monitors such that they are plausibly within the same product market. LifeWatch has alleged actual anticompetitive effects in the relevant market. View "Lifewatch Services Inc. v. Highmark, Inc." on Justia Law

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Philadelphia taxicabs were required to have a medallion and a certificate of public convenience, which required that vehicles be insured and in proper condition, and mandated that drivers be paid the prevailing minimum wage, be proficient in English, and have appropriate drivers’ licenses. In 2014, 1610 medallions were each worth about $545,000. Uber began operating in Philadelphia without securing medallions or certificates, providing an app to schedule and pay for a ride. Uber does not own or assume responsibility for the vehicles, nor does it hire drivers. A 2016 Pennsylvania law approved Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) using digital apps. TNCs must obtain licenses and comply with insurance and safety standards but set their own fares. Medallion taxicab companies comply with established rates, minimum wages, and have a limited number of vehicles. Nearly 1200 Philadelphia medallion taxicab drivers left their companies to drive for Uber. Medallion taxi rides reduced by about 30 percent. The value of each medallion dropped to approximately $80,000. Taxicab drivers sued under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Inundating the market with Uber vehicles, even if it eliminated competitors, was not anticompetitive; it bolstered competition by offering customers lower prices, more availability, and a high-tech alternative to customary practices. Uber’s ability to operate at a lower cost is not anticompetitive. Uber’s business model does not reflect specific intent to monopolize. Plaintiffs also failed to allege antitrust standing. View "Philadelphia Taxi Association, Inc. v. Uber Technologies Inc" on Justia Law

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Purchasers of egg products accused suppliers of conspiring to reduce the supply of eggs and increase the price for egg products in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. Plaintiffs alleged that the producers conspired to reduce the population of egg-laying hens, resulting in a reduced supply of eggs and, given the inelasticity of demand, supra-competitive prices. A trade association coordinated a certification program under which participants had to increase their cage sizes and not replace hens that died. Plaintiffs alleged that the proffered animal welfare rationale was a pretext to reduce supply. The district court, citing a bar on indirect purchaser actions, concluded that the purchaser-plaintiffs lacked standing. The Third Circuit reversed. As a matter of first impression, a direct purchaser of a product that includes a price-fixed input has antitrust standing to pursue a claim against the party that sold the product to the purchaser, where the seller is a participant in the price-fixing conspiracy, but the product also includes some price-fixed input supplied by a third-party non-conspirator. The direct relationship between the purchasers and their suppliers and the fact that the suppliers are alleged price-fixing conspirators, not merely competitors of those conspirators, are key factors. Regardless of who collected the overcharge, the purchasers’ econometric analysis purports to show the “difference between the actual [supracompetitive] price and the presumed competitive price” of the egg products they purchased. This purported difference, and the purchasers’ resulting injury, was allegedly a direct and intended result of the suppliers’ conspiracy. View "In Re: Processed Egg Products Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Titanium dioxide is a commodity-like product with no substitutes, the market is dominated by a few firms, and there are substantial barriers to entry. Valspar, a large-scale titanium dioxide purchaser, alleges that suppliers conspired to increase prices, beginning when DuPont—the largest American supplier—joined the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association (TDMA) in 2002. DuPont then announced a price increase. Within two weeks, DuPont’s price increase was matched by other suppliers. During the next 12 years, the alleged conspirators announced price increases 31 times. Because Valspar claims it was overcharged by $176 million. In 2010, a class of titanium dioxide purchasers filed a price-fixing action. Valspar opted out of that class action, which settled. Valspar then filed its own claim and settled except against DuPont. The Third Circuit affirmed the summary judgment in favor of DuPont. Valspar’s characterization of the suppliers’ price announcements “neglects the theory of conscious parallelism” and is contrary to the doctrine that in an oligopoly “any rational decision must take into account the anticipated reaction of the other . . . firms.” Price movement in an oligopoly is interdependent and frequently will lead to successive price increases, because oligopolists may “conclude that the industry as a whole would be better off by raising prices.” Valspar did not show that the suppliers’ parallel pricing went “beyond mere interdependence [and was] so unusual that in the absence of advance agreement, no reasonable firm would have engaged in it.” View "Valspar Corp v. E I Du Pont De Nemours & Co" on Justia Law

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Consolidated appeals involve allegations that the patent-holders for Lipitor and Effexor XR delayed entry into the market by generic versions of those drugs by engaging in a monopolistic scheme that involved fraudulently procuring and enforcing the underlying patents, then entering into a reverse-payment settlement agreement with a generic manufacturer. In 2013, the Supreme Court recognized that reverse payment schemes can violate antitrust laws and that it is normally not necessary to litigate patent validity to answer the antitrust question. The district judge dismissed several claims. The Third Circuit remanded after rejecting an argument that plaintiffs’ allegations required transfer of the appeals to the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from civil actions “arising under” patent law, 28 U.S.C. 1295(a)(1). Not all cases presenting questions of patent law necessarily arise under patent law; here, patent law neither creates plaintiffs’ cause of action nor is a necessary element to any of plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs plausibly allege the existence of agreements between the patent holders and the generic manufacturers. The court remanded one of the Lipitor appeals, brought by California pharmacists, and involving claims solely under California law, for determination of whether remand to state court was appropriate. The Lipitor plaintiffs made plausible allegations of fraudulent patent procurement and enforcement, and other related misconduct. View "In re: Lipitor Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law