Antitrust -- 2014

Dean Foods Co. v. Food Lion, LLC   (U.S. Supreme Court)

Usefulness of summary judgment in antitrust and other complex civil cases

The NAM filed an amicus brief petitioning the Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Dean Foods Co. v. Food Lion, LLC. The decision, if left to stand, could substantially limit the usefulness of summary judgment as a tool to dispose of meritless claims in antitrust and other complex civil cases. This would as a consequence significantly raise the likelihood and risk of unnecessary trials. The Sixth Circuit held that this putative class action challenging petitioners’ conduct under Section 1 of the Sherman Act could proceed to trial even though respondents offered no evidence that the alleged conspiracy actually caused any injury to them.

For “proof” of causation, respondents relied solely on their expert, who admitted that he could not say whether the price increase he observed was caused by conspiracy, by effects of an unchallenged merger-related shift in the structure of the market, or by other lawful, unilateral conduct. In the absence of any evidence showing the requisite causal link, the court of appeals merely presumed causation.

Summary judgment’s utility as a mechanism for the efficient resolution of disputes would be undermined seriously if unsubstantiated assertions were sufficient to compel a trial merely because they were factually or legally complex. Yet, that is what the Sixth Circuit found and that is the inevitable result of failing to stem the flow of cases that treat summary judgment as a disfavored procedure in antitrust cases.

The petition for certiorari was denied on November 14, 2014 by the Supreme Court.

Related Documents:
NAM brief  (September 3, 2014)


© 2019 National Association of Manufacturers