Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
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John H. Donboli, JL Sean Slattery, and Del Mar Law Group LLP (collectively the Del Mar Attorneys) filed a mislabeling lawsuit on behalf of a putative class of consumers who claimed they were misled by "Made in the U.S.A." labels on designer jeans manufactured by Citizens of Humanity (Citizens). Citizens's jeans were allegedly made with imported fabrics and other components. The focus of the purported class action was that the "Made in the U.S.A." labels violated former Business and Professions Code section 17533.7. However, a new law was passed after the complaint was filed that relaxed the previous restrictions and, ultimately, the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice. Citizens then filed this malicious prosecution action against the named plaintiff in the prior case (Coni Hass), a predecessor plaintiff (Louise Clark), and the Del Mar Attorneys. Each defendant filed a motion to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. Finding that Citizens met its burden to establish a probability of prevailing on the merits, the trial court denied defendants' motions. Appellants Hass and the Del Mar Attorneys appealed, contending Citizens failed to make a prima facie showing that it would prevail on its claims. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding: (1) there were no undisputed fact on which it could determine, as a matter of law, whether the Del Mar Attorneys and Clark had probable cause to pursue the underlying actions; (2) there was evidence which would have supported a reasonable inference the Appellants were pursuing the litigation against Citizens with an improper purpose; and (3) the district court's dismissal of the underlying action, with prejudice, constituted a favorable termination in the context of a malicious prosecution suit. View "Citizens of Humanity, LLC v. Hass" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's complaint and class action allegations against FanDuel, Inc., holding that Appellant's complaint was devoid of facts upon which he may be entitled to relief.Plaintiff filed this class action lawsuit alleging that FanDuel ran illegal advertising. Plaintiff alleged violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA) and unjust enrichment on behalf of himself and the putative class. The circuit court dismissed both Plaintiff's complaint and the class allegations, concluding that the complaint failed to allege an actual loss and that the class allegations could no longer be maintained under the amended ADTPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's action was not cognizable under the ADTPA and that his unjust enrichment claim failed because Plaintiff did not actually allege that FanDuel was unjustly enriched. View "Parnell v. Fanduel, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s certification of a class of all purchasers of Asacol, including purchasers who had not suffered any injury attributable to Defendants’ allegedly anticompetitive behavior, holding that the district court’s approach to certifying a class was at odds with both Supreme Court precedent and the law of this circuit.Drug manufacturer Warner Chilcott Limited’s coordinated withdrawal and entry of two drugs, Asacol and the similar drug called Delzicol, precluded generic manufacturers from introducing a generic version of Asacol, which would have provided a lower-cost alternative to Warner’s drugs, Delzicol and Asacol HD. Plaintiffs filed a class action alleging violations of the consumer protection and antitrust laws of twenty-five states and the District of Columbia. The district court certified a class of all Asacol purchasers who subsequently purchased Delzicol or Asacol HD in one of those twenty-six jurisdictions, finding that while ten percent of the class had not suffered any injury, those uninjured class members could be removed in a proceeding conducted by a claims administrator. The First Circuit reversed, holding that where injury-in-fact is a required element of an antitrust action, a class cannot be certified based on an expectation that the defendant will have no opportunity to press at trial genuine challenges to allegations of injury-in-fact. View "Teamsters Union 25 Health Services & Insurance Plan v. Warner Chilcott Limited" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Standard sued, on behalf of itself and “all others similarly situated," alleging that was injured when it “purchased several items of steel tubing [at an inflated price] indirectly … for end use," claiming that eight U.S. steel producers colluded to slash output to drive up the price of steel so that plaintiffs overpaid for steel sheets, rods, and tubing. Eight years later, the plaintiffs amended their complaint, asserting that they overpaid for end-use consumer goods, including vehicles, washing machines, and refrigerators, that were manufactured by third parties using steel. The district court dismissed the suit as time-barred because it redefines “steel products” to give rise to an entirely different, and exponentially larger, universe of plaintiffs, and, in the alternative, for not plausibly pleading a causal connection between the alleged antitrust conspiracy and plaintiffs’ own injuries. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. No reasonable defendant, reading the original complaint, would have imagined that plaintiffs were actually suing over the thousands of end-use household and commercial goods manufactured by third parties—a reading so broad that it would make nearly every person in the country a potential class member. The court further noted that it was unclear how to trace the effect of an alleged overcharge on steel through the complex supply and production chains that gave rise to consumer products. View "Supreme Auto Transport, LLC v. Arcelor Mittal USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit held that federal law requires prior FDA approval for a manufacturer of prescription eye drops to change the medication’s bottle so as to alter the amount of medication dispensed into the eye, and therefore, state law claims challenging the manufacturers’ refusal to make this change are preempted.Plaintiff sued in federal court on their own behalf and on behalf of a putative class of prescription eye solution purchasers, asserting that Defendants deliberately designed their dispensers to emit unnecessarily large drops. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants’ practice was “unfair” under Massachusetts state law and twenty-five other states and allied claims for unjust enrichment and for “money had and received.” The district court dismissed the complaint without ruling on the merits, finding that FDA regulations preempted Plaintiffs’ suit. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) changing a product bottle so as to dispense a different amount of prescription eye solution is a “major change” under 21 C.F.R. 314.70(b); and (2) therefore, Plaintiffs’ state law claims were preempted. View "Gustavsen v. Alcon Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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The FDA approved Depakote for treating seizures, migraine headaches, and conditions associated with bipolar disorder. Physicians may prescribe it for other "off-label" uses, but a drug’s manufacturer can promote it only as suitable for uses the FDA has found safe and effective. Abbott, which makes Depakote, encouraged intermediaries to promote Depakote’s off-label uses for ADHD, schizophrenia, and dementia, hiding its own involvement. Abbott pleaded guilty to unlawful promotion and paid $1.6 billion to resolve the criminal case and False Claims Act suits, 31 U.S.C. 3729–33. Welfare-benefit plans that paid for Depakote’s off-label uses sought treble damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1964, for a class comprising all third-party payors. Following a remand, the court dismissed the suit on the ground that the plaintiffs could not show proximate causation, a RICO requirement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Payors are not the most directly, injured parties. Patients suffer if they take Depakote when it is useless and may be harmful and costly. Physicians also may lose, though less directly. Because some off-label uses of Depakote may be beneficial to patients, it is hard to treat all off-label prescriptions as injurious to the Payors; if they did not pay for Depakote they would have paid for some other drug. In addition, some physicians were apt to write off-label prescriptions whether or not Abbott promoted such uses. Calculation of damages would require determining the volume of off-label prescriptions that would have occurred absent Abbott’s unlawful activity. View "Sidney Hillman Health Center of Rochester v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law

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Cox Cable subscribers cannot access premium cable services unless they also rent a set-top box from Cox. A class of plaintiffs in Oklahoma City sued Cox under antitrust laws, alleging Cox had illegally tied cable services to set-top-box rentals in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits illegal restraints of trade. Though a jury found that Plaintiffs had proved the necessary elements to establish a tying arrangement, the district court disagreed. In granting Cox’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) motion, the court determined that Plaintiffs had offered insufficient evidence for a jury to find that Cox’s tying arrangement "foreclosed a substantial volume of commerce in Oklahoma City to other sellers or potential sellers of set-top boxes in the market for set- top boxes." After careful consideration, the Tenth Circuit ultimately agreed with the district court and affirmed. View "Healy v. Cox Communications" on Justia Law

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Direct purchasers of Wellbutrin XL, a drug for treating depression, sued, alleging that GSK violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by entering into an unlawful conspiracy with Biovail, GSK’s partner in the development of Wellbutrin XL, to delay the launch of generic versions of the drug. Indirect-purchasers asserted similar theories under state law. The purchasers claim that GSK delayed the launch of generic versions by supporting baseless patent infringement suits and a baseless FDA Citizen Petition aimed at generic drug companies and by entering into an unlawful reverse payment settlement agreement with potential competitors. The district court granted GSK summary judgment, finding insufficient evidence that GSK’s patent litigation was a sham or that the settlement delayed the launch of generic Wellbutrin XL. The court granted GSK’s Daubert motion to exclude the testimony of the purchasers’ economic expert; decertified the indirect-purchaser class for lack of ascertainability; dismissed the indirect-purchaser claims brought under the laws of states that were not the home of a named class representative; and denied Aetna’s motion to intervene. The Third Circuit affirmed. After considering the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, FTC v. Actavis, the court concluded that the purchasers failed to establish a genuine dispute of fact either as to whether GSK engaged in sham litigation or whether GSK’s actions delayed the launch of generic Wellbutrin XL. View "In re: Wellbutrin XL Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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The district court certified eight classes, consisting of persons in Illinois and Missouri who take eye drops manufactured by six pharmaceutical companies for treatment of glaucoma. Plaintiffs claimed that the defendants’ eye drops are unnecessarily large and wasteful, in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, 815 ILCS 505/1, and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. 407.010, so that the price of the eye drops is excessive and that the large eye drops have a higher risk of side effects. There was no claim that members of the class have experienced side effects or have been harmed because they ran out of them early. The Seventh Circuit vacated with instructions to dismiss. The court noted possible legitimate reasons for large drops, the absence of any misrepresentation or collusion, and that defendants’ large eye drops have been approved by the FDA for safety and efficacy. “You cannot sue a company and argue only ‘it could do better by us,’” nor can one bring a suit in federal court without pleading that one has been injured. The plaintiffs allege only “disappointment.” View "Eike v. Allergan, Inc." on Justia Law