Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
by
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) is a federal law that nationalizes governance of the thoroughbred horseracing industry. To formulate detailed rules on an array of topics, HISA empowers a private entity called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (the “Authority”), which operates under Federal Trade Commission oversight. Soon after its passage, HISA was challenged by various horsemen’s associations, which were later joined by Texas and the state’s racing commission. Plaintiffs argued HISA is facially unconstitutional because it delegates government power to a private entity without sufficient agency supervision. The district court acknowledged that the plaintiffs’ “concerns are legitimate,” that HISA has “unique features,” and that its structure “pushes the boundaries of public-private collaboration.” Nonetheless, the court rejected the private non-delegation challenge.   The Fifth Circuit declared that the HISA is unconstitutional because it violates the private non-delegation doctrine. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded. The court explained that while acknowledging the Authority’s “sweeping” power, the district court thought it was balanced by the FTC’s “equally” sweeping oversight. Not so. HISA restricts FTC review of the Authority’s proposed rules. If those rules are “consistent” with HISA’s broad principles, the FTC must approve them. And even if it finds an inconsistency, the FTC can only suggest changes. What’s more, the FTC concedes it cannot review the Authority’s policy choices. The Authority’s power outstrips any private delegation the Supreme Court or the Fifth Circuit has allowed. Thus the court declared HISA facially unconstitutional. View "National Horsemen's Benevolent v. Black" on Justia Law

by
BRFHH Shreveport sued Willis-Knighton Medical Center for antitrust violations. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held (A) BRF’s Section 1 claim fails because BRF hasn’t plausibly alleged an agreement between Willis-Knighton and LSU. Then the court held (B) BRF’s Section 2 claim fails because BRF hasn’t plausibly alleged market foreclosure.   The court explained that BRF’s complaint fails because the complaint alleges that Willis-Knighton’s exclusive dealing arrangement affected the upstream market for physician services. Then the complaint alleges foreclosure in the downstream medical services market. But BRF doesn’t adequately connect the two. First, the complaint already chose which market to allege. And it chose to focus on downstream markets for healthcare services—not the upstream market for physicians. BRF can’t change horses midstream. Second, though the complaint asserts that BRF had no choice but to get physicians from LSU, it admits this was a pre-existing “provision in the hospital by-laws.” So even if the restriction threatened substantial foreclosure— which BRF hasn’t alleged—BRF still would’ve failed to plead causation. View "BRFHH Shreveport v. Willis-Knighton" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs are oil-field manufacturing and services companies (collectively, “Chandler”) who brought Walker Process fraud and sham patent litigation claims against defendants Phoenix Services, LLC, and its CEO, Mark Fisher (collectively, “Phoenix”). The patent at issue here is U.S. Patent No. 8,171,993 (the “’993 Patent”), which was issued to Mark Hefley, founder of Heat On-The-Fly, LLC (“HOTF”). The district court dismissed some of the claims for lack of standing and others as time-barred. The case was then appealed to the Federal Circuit, but the Federal Circuit found the case had no live patent issues and so transferred the case to the Fifth Circuit.Both parties moved for summary judgment, to support its claims, Chandler alleged Phoenix was liable as HOTF’s parent company for two anticompetitive acts involving the ’993 Patent. Chandler and Phoenix cross-moved for summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit accepted the case and affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court explained that it cannot find the Federal Circuit’s decision implausible. Next, turning to the merits, the court found that the district court correctly found a lack of substantial evidence that the cease-and-desist letter materially caused Supertherm’s lost profits. Finally, because the district court correctly ruled that tolling does not apply, Chandler’s claims are time-barred. View "Chandler v. Phoenix Services" on Justia Law

by
CAE Integrated L.L.C. and Capital Asset Exchange and Trading, L.L.C. (collectively CAE) sued its former employee and his current employer, Moov, for misappropriation of trade secrets and then moved for a preliminary injunction. The district court denied the preliminary injunction and CAE appealed.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial finding that CAE failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims. The court considered that trade secret information derives independent economic value from being not generally known or readily ascertainable through proper means. What CAE refers to as the “transactional documents” are files from Google Drive with purchase orders, invoices, customer equipment needs, and pricing history. The former employee has not had access to his MacBook since 2016 and he testified that Google Drive contained none of the transactional documents when he started at Moov. The district court found the employee’s testimony credible and the forensic analysis confirmed that before the employee began at Moov, he deleted any remaining transactional documents from his Google Drive. Therefore, the district court did not clearly err in finding that neither the employee nor Moov misappropriated trade secrets. Further, even if CAE had established that the employee or Moov misappropriated trade secrets, it failed to show the use or potential use of trade secrets. View "CAE Integrated v. Moov Technologies" on Justia Law

by
The SEC brought an enforcement action within the agency against Petitioners for securities fraud. An SEC administrative law judge adjudged Petitioners liable and ordered various remedies, and the SEC affirmed on appeal over several constitutional arguments that Petitioners raised.   The Fifth Circuit held that (1) the SEC’s in-house adjudication of Petitioners’ case violated their Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial; (2) Congress unconstitutionally delegated legislative power to the SEC by failing to provide an intelligible principle by which the SEC would exercise the delegated power, in violation of Article I’s vesting of “all” legislative power in Congress; and (3) statutory removal restrictions on SEC ALJs violate the Take Care Clause of Article II.   The court reasoned that the Seventh Amendment guarantees Petitioners a jury trial because the SEC’s enforcement action is akin to traditional actions at law to which the jury-trial right attaches. Further, the SEC proceedings at issue suffered from another constitutional infirmity: the statutory removal restrictions for SEC ALJs are unconstitutional. View "Jarkesy v. SEC" on Justia Law

by
Visa and Pulse both operate debit networks; Pulse has a PIN network; Visa has a signature network (“Visa Debit”) and a PIN network (“Interlink”). In response to the Durbin Amendment and to avoid anti-competitiveness, Visa changed certain policies. Pulse then sued visa, alleging federal and state antitrust statute violations.On appeal, Pulse argues the district court erred in granting summary judgment based on Pulse’s lack of antitrust standing. Pulse contends it has antitrust standing to contest Visa’s PAVD program. The court reasoned that loss from competition itself— loss in customers’ choosing the competitor’s goods and services over the plaintiff’s—does not constitute antitrust injury, even if the defendant is violating antitrust laws to offer customers that choice.Moreover, antitrust standing requires a “proper plaintiff." The court held that Pulse is a proper plaintiff to challenge FANF. Finally, Pulse’s overarching contention is that the district judge had prejudged the case against Pulse. The court found that in light of all the evidence and challenges the judge may have evaluating the claims based on what was already presented, reassignment was necessary. The court reversed the summary judgment in part, remanded the case for further proceedings, and directed the Southern District of Texas to assign the case to a different district judge. View "Pulse Network v. Visa" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Quadvest and Woodland Oaks filed suit against SJRA, a state entity, alleging that SJRA violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act when it entered into and enforced contracts relating to the purchase of wholesale water in Montgomery County, Texas. The district court denied SJRA's motion to dismiss.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, concluding that, for the purposes of the court's jurisdictional analysis, SJRA invokes state-action immunity as a state entity. Therefore, this interlocutory appeal is proper under the court's precedent. On the merits, the court concluded that the Texas Legislature did not authorize SJRA’s entry into and enforcement of the challenged groundwater reduction plan (GRP) contract provisions with the intent to displace competition in the market for wholesale raw water in Montgomery County. Therefore, SJRA is not entitled to state-action immunity at this stage in the proceedings. View "Quadvest, LP v. San Jacinto River Authority" on Justia Law

by
AAAPC and UAS filed suit against Quest for conspiring to force them out of the market of providing allergy and asthma testing. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The Fifth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs' claims alleging that Quest violated sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and the Texas antitrust law are not time-barred. The court explained that plaintiffs' allegations about Phadia and Quest's continued meetings with providers and payors do not restart the statute of limitations; plaintiffs' allegations regarding the June 2015 policy change does not suffice to restart the statute of limitations; but plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that Phadia and Quest were involved in the alleged conspiracy and that the allegation regarding Phadia's May 2014 email reset the statute of limitations. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal as to the state and federal antitrust claims. The court also reversed the dismissal of plaintiffs' misappropriation of trade secrets claim, concluding that plaintiffs have sufficiently pled they could not have discovered their misappropriation injury using reasonable diligence. Moreover, nothing in the complaint forecloses their potential rejoinder to the statute of limitations defense. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the civil conspiracy and tortious interference claims. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' request for leave to amend their complaint. View "Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Commission charged Impax Laboratories with antitrust violations for accepting payments ultimately worth more than $100 million to delay the entry of its generic drug for more than two years. The Commission conducted a rule-of-reason analysis and unanimously concluded that Impax violated antitrust law.The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, concluding that substantial evidence supports the Commission's finding that the reverse payment settlement threatened competition. In this case, Endo agreed to make large payments to the company that was allegedly infringing its patents; in exchange, Impax agreed to delay entry of its generic drug until two-and-a-half years after the FDA approved the drug; and neither the saved costs of forgoing a trial nor any services Endo received justified these payments. Furthermore, substantial evidence supports the Commission's conclusion that a less restrictive, no-payment settlement, alternative was feasible. Therefore, Impax agreed to an unreasonable restraint of trade because the reverse payment settlement was an agreement to preserve and split monopoly profits that was not necessary to allow generic competition before the expiration of Endo's patent. View "Impax Laboratories, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission" on Justia Law

by
Shah, a board-certified pediatric anesthesiology specialist, joined STAR, which became the exclusive provider of anesthesia services at several San Antonio-area acute-care hospitals, including NCB. BHS guaranteed STAR $500,000 in collections for pediatric anesthesia services provided at NCB. In 2012, STAR became the exclusive provider of anesthesia services at four BHS hospitals. Shah was not a party to the 2012 agreement, nor was he named in the pediatric income guarantee but he continued to practice as a STAR pediatric anesthesiologist, becoming the primary beneficiary of STAR’s guaranteed collections. In 2016, STAR and BHS amended the 2012 agreement, eliminating the pediatric income guarantee. The exclusivity provision remained. STAR terminated its relationship with Shah. Shah could no longer provide pediatric anesthesia services at NCB or any other BHS facility included in the exclusivity agreement. Shah requested authorization to provide pediatric anesthesia care at NCB; BHS responded that Shah’s reappointment to the Medical Staff of BHS and his privileges were approved but the exclusivity provision precluded Shah from providing pediatric anesthesia services at six BHS facilities (including NCB). After unsuccessfully suing STAR in Texas state court, Shah sued under the Sherman Act.The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the BHS parties. Shah’s definition of the relevant market is insufficient as a matter of law; it does not encompass all interchangeable substitute products because it does not include the two non-BHS facilities that the BHS parties contend serve as viable alternatives to BHS facilities. View "Shah v. VHS San Antonio Partners, LLC" on Justia Law