Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
Plaintiffs filed an antitrust class action against Actelion, alleging that Actelion extended its patent monopoly for its branded drug Tracleer — a drug to treat pulmonary artery hypertension — beyond the patent's expiration date. Plaintiffs claimed that Actelion did so "through illegitimate means" with the intent of precluding competition from generic drug manufacturers and charging supracompetitive prices for Tracleer, in violation of federal and state antitrust laws. Plaintiffs further claimed that, as a result of Actelion's illegal monopolization, they were injured by having to pay supracompetitive prices for Tracleer for some three years after Actelion's patent for Tracleer expired.The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's limitations ruling and concluded that plaintiffs' antitrust claims did not accrue until they were injured by paying supracompetitive prices for Tracleer after the patent expired in November 2015. Therefore, plaintiffs action commenced in November 2018 was timely. The court also concluded that, even if the February 2014 date, when Actelion entered into agreements settling the generic manufacturers' antitrust claims, marked the last anticompetitive act, damages could not then have been recovered by plaintiffs because their claims would not have been ripe for judicial resolution in view of the speculative nature of future conduct that might have thereafter occurred. Therefore, limitations would not begin to run until the claims became ripe. In any event, the court explained that because plaintiffs alleged that Actelion continued with anticompetitive acts after November 2015 in selling Tracleer at supracompetitive prices, new limitations periods began to run from each sale that caused plaintiffs damages. The court largely agreed with the district court's standing, but concluded that the allegations asserting violations of the laws in states where plaintiffs did not purchase Tracleer may yet be considered when determining whether plaintiffs can, based on a Rule 23 analysis, represent class members who purchased Tracleer in those States, and if they can, then whether plaintiffs can include those claims. View "Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd." on Justia Law
Foodbuy, LLC v. Gregory Packaging, Inc.
GPI and Foodbuy were engaged in a non-exclusive commercial relationship, which was memorialized in a supplier agreement. Foodbuy subsequently filed suit against GPI alleging, among other claims, breach of contract for overcharging its Committed Customers. GPI counterclaimed, asserting, in relevant part, breach of contract for over-invoicing and violations of North Carolina's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA). The district court held that the Agreement's terms were unambiguous, and, under its plain language, required GPI to pay a volume allowance only for purchases made through Foodbuy's program (and thus at Foodbuy's price). In the alternative, the district court determined that should the Agreement's terms be found to be ambiguous, the same result would follow because the various methods of contract interpretation pointed to the same conclusion.The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that Foodbuy failed to show that it suffered any individualized harm as a result of GPI's alleged failure to sell its products to Committed Customers at the correct pre-determined prices under the Agreement. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Foodbuy's overcharging claim for lack of standing. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Foodbuy's motion in limine to exclude GPI's damages calculation, and in denying Foodbuy's request for leave to amend its answer to conform to the evidence. The court noted that the proper framework for resolving the breach of contract claim involves the tools for interpreting ambiguous contracts. In this case, the district court undertook that analysis in its alternative holding wherein it concluded that the parties' intent was to require GPI to pay a volume allowance on only those purchases made through the Foodbuy program at the negotiated price. Because Foodbuy failed to present any argument in its opening brief taking issue with this facet of the district court's alternative holding, even though the court found the Agreement to be ambiguous, Foodbuy has waived any challenge to the district court's judgment on that ground. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's interpretation of the Agreement. However, the district court wrongly denied GPI's cross-claim alleging violations of the UDTPA. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded on this issue. View "Foodbuy, LLC v. Gregory Packaging, Inc." on Justia Law
Western Star Hospital Authority, Inc. v. City of Richmond
After VA Medical Center selected Metro Health's bid on the condition that Metro Health could obtain a permit from the City to operate emergency medical services (EMS) vehicles, the City refused to grant Metro Health a permit. Metro Health then filed suit against the City and RAA, alleging violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case with prejudice, agreeing with the district court that defendants were entitled to immunity from federal antitrust liability where they acted pursuant to a clearly articulated state policy. Furthermore, federal law does not preempt their actions. The court rejected Metro Health's contention that by thwarting the VA Medical Center's competitive bidding process, the City and RAA have violated the Supremacy Clause. The court explained that, where, as here, a federal agency, of its own volition, imposes a contract condition consistent with federal law, the Supremacy Clause is not implicated. View "Western Star Hospital Authority, Inc. v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law
SD3 II, LLC v. Black & Decker
SawStop filed an antitrust suit against Table Saw Manufacturers, alleging that the Table Saw Manufacturers had colluded in contravention of antitrust laws to exclude its proprietary technology from the market. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Table Saw Manufacturers based on statute of limitations grounds. The court held that the doctrine of fraudulent concealment was not applicable in this case; SawStop was on actual notice of its antitrust claim against the Table Saw Manufacturers; even if SawStop lacked actual notice of its antitrust claim, SawStop was on inquiry notice of that claim and SawStop failed to investigate its claim with the necessary diligence; and thus the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the Table Saw Manufacturers. View "SD3 II, LLC v. Black & Decker" on Justia Law
Association for Accessible Medicine v. Frosh
In 2017, Maryland enacted “An Act concerning Public Health – Essential Off-Patent or Generic Drugs – Price Gouging – Prohibition.” The Act, Md. Code, Health–General 2-802(a), prohibits manufacturers or wholesale distributors from “engag[ing] in price gouging in the sale of an essential off-patent or generic drug,” defines “price gouging” as “an unconscionable increase in the price of a prescription drug,” and “unconscionable increase” as “excessive and not justified by the cost of producing the drug or the cost of appropriate expansion of access to the drug to promote public health” that results in consumers having no meaningful choice about whether to purchase the drug at an excessive price due to the drug’s importance to their health and insufficient competition. The “essential” medications are “made available for sale in [Maryland]” and either appear on the Model List of Essential Medicines most recently adopted by the World Health Organization or are “designated . . . as an essential medicine due to [their] efficacy in treating a life-threatening health condition or a chronic health condition that substantially impairs an individual’s ability to engage in activities of daily living.” The Fourth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a “dormant commerce clause” challenge to the Act, finding that it directly regulates the price of transactions that occur outside Maryland. View "Association for Accessible Medicine v. Frosh" on Justia Law
It’s My Party, Inc. v. Live Nation, Inc.
IMP filed suit against LN, alleging that LN violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1 et seq., by engaging in monopolization, tying arrangements, and exclusive dealing in the music concert industry. IMP and LN both promote concert tours and operate concert venues, but they differ in geographic reach. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to LN, concluding that IMP failed to define the relevant markets or to demonstrate any anticompetitive conduct. View "It's My Party, Inc. v. Live Nation, Inc." on Justia Law
SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker
SawStop filed suit against two dozen saw manufacturers and affiliated entities under section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, contending that several major table-saw manufacturers conspired to boycott SawStop’s safety technology and corrupt a private safety-standard-setting process, all with the aim of keeping that technology off the market. The district court dismissed SawStop's amended complaint. The court concluded that SawStop's complaint does not plausibly allege any conspiracy to manipulate safety standards; the complaint also fails to allege any facts at all against several corporate parents and affiliates; and therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal as to these claims. However, the court concluded that SawStop has alleged enough to suggest a plausible agreement to engage in a group boycott where the complaint offers enough to survive defendants’ motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's dismissal as to this claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker" on Justia Law
Kolon Indus. Inc. v. E. I. DuPont De Nemour
DuPont filed suit against Kolon, alleging the theft and misappropriation of its Kevlar trade secrets (the trade secrets case). Kolon's answer included the instant counterclaim (the antitrust case), alleging that DuPont had illegally monopolized and attempted to monopolize the U.S. para-aramid market through its supply agreements with high-volume para-aramid customers. Para-aramid is a strong, complex synthetic fiber used in body armor, tires, fiber optic cables, and a variety of other industrial products. The court concluded that following United States v. Owens, recusals under 28 U.S.C. 455(b) include a judicially implied timely-filing requirement, and that the district court acted within its discretion when it denied Kolon's recusal motion on timeliness grounds. The court deferred to the district court's considerable discretion in overseeing discovery and will not disturb its discovery rulings. On the merits of Kolon's antitrust suit, Kolon has failed to raise a triable issue of material fact sufficient to sustain either its attempted or actual monopolization claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "Kolon Indus. Inc. v. E. I. DuPont De Nemour" on Justia Law
FTC v. Ross
The FTC filed suit against defendant for engaging in deceptive internet advertising practices involving the use of a "scareware" scheme that tricked consumers into purchasing computer security software. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's judgment enjoining her from participating in the deceptive practices and holding her jointly and severally liable for equitable monetary consumer redress. The court concluded that the district court had sufficient statutory power to award "complete relief," including monetary consumer redress, which is a form of equitable relief; the court held that one may be found individually liable under the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 41 et seq., if she (1) participated directly in the deceptive practices or had authority to control those practices, and (2) had or should have had knowledge of the deceptive practices; the court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges; the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant had authority to control the deceptive acts within the meaning of the Act nor did the district court clearly err in finding that defendant directly participated in the deceptive marketing scheme; and the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant had actual knowledge of the deceptive marketing scheme and/or that she was at the very least recklessly indifferent or intentionally avoided the truth. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "FTC v. Ross" on Justia Law
The NC State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC
The Board petitioned for review of the FTC order finding that it violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 45, by engaging in unfair competition in the market for teeth-whitening services in North Carolina. The court concluded that the Board was not exempt from the antitrust laws under the state action doctrine; the Board engaged in a combination or conspiracy under section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1; and substantial evidence supported the FTC's factual findings regarding the economic effects of the Board's actions and that those findings supported the conclusion that the Board's behavior violated section 1. Accordingly, the court denied the petition. View "The NC State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC" on Justia Law