Antitrust Cases Dismissed By American District Court Judge
In Florida, an American district court judge has approved the findings of a magistrate judge, which ruled that numerous antitrust complaints – made by windshield repair firms throughout the country against several insurance providers — should be thrown out. Nonetheless, the judge allowed leeway for lawyers to submit modified complaints. Auto glass repair stores from twelve federal district courts claimed that multiple insurance firms had fixed prices. These cases were dealt with together by the district court judge in Florida. The judge remarked that the complaint made against State Farm by Louisiana was awaiting approval to be contested in Louisiana state.
Twenty-First Century Centennial Insurance Company Versus A&E Auto Body Incorporated seems to have ignited the court proceedings. Here, a few Florida windshield repair stores filed a case against State Farm (along with many other insurance firms) claiming that the insurers illegally depressed rates, via their direct repair packages. Allegedly, if the stores failed to play ball, customers were sent elsewhere.
In the context of this court battle, other similar complaints were made in Michigan, Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, Alabama, New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, Oregon and other states. In December 2014, the American JPML (Judicial Multidistrict Litigation Panel) sent these complaints to the American District Court in Florida. Due to the sheer number of cases and states involved, the presiding American district court judge requested assistance from the American magistrate judge, to facilitate case research and provide advice. Defendants and plaintiffs had the chance to submit rebuttal statements.
During their statements, the plaintiffs made claims about the behavior of defendants collectively. Initially, the legitimacy of collective pleading was called into question, but eventually it was given the OK. Nonetheless, Judge Smith concluded that plaintiffs should, at least, provide enough evidence related to each specific defendant – or enough facts pertaining to each corporate group of defendants – to link the defendants to the alleged illegality.
After the antitrust complaints from the fourteen cases were reviewed, the magistrate judge said that the group boycott and price fixing allegations were no different to those that were made in Florida. Therefore, the judge ruled that the complaints should be thrown out on the same basis that the Florida complaints were rejected. Furthermore, the magistrate judge ruled that the antitrust complaints made in New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia and Washington should be thrown out, due to insufficient evidence of a contract between the defendants. This ruling was approved by the American district court judge.