Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
Mississippi ex rel. Fitch v. Yazaki North America, Inc.
In 2012, the executives of several Japanese auto-parts manufacturers pled guilty to federal crimes based on an international scheme to fix the price of Automotive Wire Harness Systems (AWHS). Three years later, the State of Mississippi sued the American subsidiaries of these federally prosecuted companies, alleging violations of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) and the Mississippi Antitrust Act (MAA), as well as a civil conspiracy to violate the MCPA and MAA. The trial court dismissed the State’s complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The State appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed: the alleged unfair trade practices were too remote in time to support the State’s claim for injunctive relief under the MCPA; the complaint alleged no “wholly intrastate” transactions that would make the alleged illegal cartel punishable under the MAA; and because the State alleged no viable claim for a statutory violation, its civil-conspiracy claim, based solely on the alleged statutory violations, also failed. View "Mississippi ex rel. Fitch v. Yazaki North America, Inc." on Justia Law
Mississippi v. Walgreen Co.
This matter stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the State of Mississippi against the defendant pharmacies. The State alleged deceptive trade practices and fraudulent reporting of inflated “usual and customary” prices in the defendant’s reimbursement requests to the Mississippi Department of Medicaid. The State argued that Walgreens, CVS, and Fred’s pharmacies purposefully misrepresented these prices to obtain higher prescription drug reimbursements from the State. Finding that the circuit court was better equipped to preside over this action, the DeSoto County Chancery Court transferred the matter to the DeSoto County Circuit Court in response to the defendants’ request. Aggrieved, the State timely filed an interlocutory appeal disputing the chancellor’s decision to transfer the case. After a thorough review of the parties’ positions, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that though the chancery court properly could have retained the action, the chancellor correctly used his discretion to transfer the case, allowing the issues to proceed in front of a circuit-court jury. As a result, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s decision. View "Mississippi v. Walgreen Co." on Justia Law
Georgia Pacific Corporation v. Cook Timber Company, Inc.
Cook Timber Company sued Georgia Pacific Corporation, claiming breach of contract and antitrust violations, both unilaterally and through a conspiracy with other market participants. In 1983, Cook Timber entered into a contract with Georgia Pacific, and from then until 2000, Cook Timber worked exclusively with Georgia Pacific. Eighty to ninety percent of Cook Timber’s wood was hauled to the Taylorsville Plywood Plant and Bay Springs Sawmill. The remainder was hauled to the Leaf River Pulp Mill. In March 2000, Georgia Pacific notified Cook Timber by letter that its Leaf River Pulp Mill no longer would receive any pine pulpwood deliveries from Cook Timber. Cook Timber then filed this suit. The circuit judge granted Georgia Pacific a directed verdict on Cook Timber’s conspiracy and breach-of-contract claim, but the jury returned a verdict for Cook Timber on its unilateral antitrust claim. Because Cook Timber failed to present sufficient evidence to support its unilateral antitrust claims, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the jury’s verdict on that claim. The Court also affirmed the circuit judge’s decision to grant Georgia Pacific a directed verdict on the conspiracy claim. But the Court reversed the directed verdict on Cook Timber’s breach-of-contract claim, and remanded for a new trial on that claim. View "Georgia Pacific Corporation v. Cook Timber Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Pickering v. Hood
To pursue claims against Microsoft for alleged violations of the Mississippi antitrust and consumer-protection laws, Attorney General Jim Hood signed a contingency-fee contract with Hazzard Law, LLC, which, in turn, associated other law firms to assist with the litigation. The chancery court dismissed the antitrust claims, but allowed the consumer-protection claims to proceed. The parties eventually signed a settlement agreement that required Microsoft to provide up to $60 million in vouchers for Mississippi residents, and to pay the State of Mississippi $50 million in cash. However, the settlement agreement provided that $10 million of the cash money was to be distributed to the trust account of one of the outside lawyers in Houston, Texas. State Auditor Stacey Pickering wrote Hazzard, stating that payment of settlement funds directly to outside counsel violated Mississippi law. And because the same issue was pending in circuit court in another case, the auditor reserved all objections to the settlement until after the courts resolved the issue. Hazzard responded by filing a petition in chancery court, seeking approval of the attorney-fee payment. The auditor intervened in order to investigate and recover any public funds improperly withheld, misappropriated, or illegally spent. The auditor also filed a motion to have the $10 million held in trust disbursed to the State. The chancellor ruled in favor of Hazzard and ordered the settlement funds distributed directly to Hazzard and other retained counsel. The auditor appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General cross-appealed, claiming the Auditor's intervention was untimely. The chancery court held that the payment was proper. But because the law required that outside counsel retained by the Attorney General be paid from his contingent fund or from other funds the Legislature appropriated to his office, and because the Mississippi Constitution requires obligations and liabilities to the State to be paid "into the proper treasury," the Supreme Court reversed. View "Pickering v. Hood" on Justia Law