Judge Claude M. Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia recently issued a Memorandum Opinion following up on his June 27, 2014 order (on which we previously wrote here and here) dismissing the complaint filed against the power tool industry by SawStop, LLC.
To recap, according to the February 2014 complaint, in 2000, Stephen Gass, inventor of “SawStop” and a patent attorney, began licensing negotiations with several companies now named as defendants in the lawsuit. As a result, the companies allegedly held a vote on how to respond to SawStop and shortly thereafter ended their individual licensing negotiations with Gass. The complaint also alleges the companies conspired to alter voluntary standards to prevent SawStop technology from becoming an industry standard.
In his opinion dismissing SawStop’s antitrust claims, Judge Hilton wrote: Continue Reading
Last week, the California Supreme Court granted review of Ramos v. Brenntag Specialties, Inc. to resolve a split in the Second Appellate District regarding the application of California’s component parts doctrine. The component parts doctrine stands for the proposition that a company that manufactures component parts cannot be sued under a strict liability theory for a finished product that incorporates its component.
The rationale for not imposing liability on suppliers of product components is a matter of public policy: such suppliers generally do not participate in developing their component products into finished products for consumers. Imposing liability on these suppliers would impose a burden on them to closely examine buyer-manufacturers’ processes and final end products in order to ameliorate the suppliers’ potential legal exposure, despite the fact that buyer-manufacturers are in the best position to ensure product safety.
The House of Representatives is currently considering H.R. 5016, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2015, which provides funding to many different parts of the federal government for the next fiscal year. This includes the CPSC, which would be funded $118 million under the House bill (the Senate appropriations bill provides for $123 million). Today, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced and the House passed an amendment that would halt the CPSC’s ongoing work on finalizing the controversial voluntary recalls rule. The amendment states:
Today the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved three pending nominations for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Committee approved Elliot Kaye as Chairman and Joe Mohorovic and Bob Adler as Commissioners to the CPSC. Although the Committee approved his nomination, seven Republican Senators reportedly voted no on the reappointment of current Acting Chairman Adler. Those Senators included: Continue Reading
Last week, a California federal judge revived a putative class action accusing Amy’s Kitchen Inc. of misleading customers by labeling sugar as “evaporated cane juice” on its products. In a finding that puts the case on hold until the FDA weighs in, Judge Illston found that a decision to permanently dismiss the case would be unjust if the FDA later decides that “evaporated cane juice” is not an acceptable term for sugar on food labels. Continue Reading
Last week the CPSC formally announced it would be holding its annual “agenda and priorities” hearing at the CPSC on July 24th at 10am. The purpose and importance of this meeting is somewhat underappreciated in terms of the role it can play for individual stakeholders wishing to have the agency change its allocation of resources for particular projects over the next two years. In its Federal Register notice, the agency states it is seeking public input on the following questions: Continue Reading
On June 27, 2014, Judge Claude M. Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the complaint filed against the power tool industry by SawStop, LLC. We previously wrote about this lawsuit and the need for companies and trade associations to develop sound legal policies and procedures to avoid antitrust lawsuits last month. In his very brief order regarding the SawStop case, Judge Hilton stated: Continue Reading
We previously wrote about the recent 4th Circuit decision that ordered the unsealing of a district court opinion siding with a manufacturer who challenged a product safety report the CPSC planned to post on its Saferproducts.gov public database. The district court had previously redacted its opinion heavily and allowed the company challenging the CPSC’s posting of the report to sue the agency anonymously to protect its identity.
Shortly after the 4th Circuit’s opinion was published, the previously unknown “Company Doe” revealed itself to be baby carrier manufacturer Ergobaby. Today, the much anticipated 70+ page district court opinion was released in its unredacted form. You can read it by clicking here.
In April, we wrote about the Vermont legislature’s approval of a bill that would require manufacturers to change the retail labels of certain foods to indicate that they are GMO. On May 8, 2014, Vermont enacted the final version of this bill, now Act 120, which requires manufacturers to make these changes by July 1, 2016. On June 12, 2014, Grocery Manufacturers Association (“GMA”), along with the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and National Association of Manufacturers, challenged Act 120 in a complaint filed in the District of Vermont (5:14-CV-117) against various Vermont state officials, including the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Commission of the Vermont Department of Health.
In most respects, trade associations are pro-competitive organizations: they join together competitors to advance worthwhile goals and to learn from one another. Their societal value is why they are recognized as non-profits. Many trade association activities, in particular safety standard-setting efforts, provide the public with valuable benefits. But these cooperative activities can open trade associations and their members to antitrust liability as well as potential tort liability.
Although it could very well be dismissed, the recent complaint filed against the power tool industry by SawStop LLC reminds us of the critical need for associations to develop sound legal policies and procedures to avoid—or successfully defend against—antitrust lawsuits, whether from government or private actors.