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White v. R.M. Packer Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

February 18, 2011, Decided

No. 10-1130

Opinion

 [*574]  LYNCH, Chief Judge. The plaintiffs in this case complain that the prices for gasoline on Martha's Vineyard have been artificially high due both to an illegal price-fixing conspiracy among  [*575]  four of the island's nine gas stations and to unconscionable price-gouging in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. As to the antitrust claims, the stations agree for the purposes of summary judgment that there is evidence of parallel pricing but say that is not illegal absent an agreement to fix prices. The district court granted summary  [**2] judgment to defendants on both of plaintiffs' claims, which were brought under § 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act and a price-gouging regulation under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. We affirm, discussing the law on "agreements," as opposed to "conscious parallelism," under the Sherman Act, and assessing the defendants' post-hurricane pricing patterns under the state price-gouging rule.

I. Standard of Review

We discuss separately the price-fixing and price-gouging claims. The standard of review for each is the same. ] We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, taking all facts and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the nonmoving parties, and affirming only if there are no genuine issues of material fact and defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Cortes-Rivera v. Dep't of Corr. and Rehab., 626 F.3d 21, 26 (1st Cir. 2010).

II. Sherman Act Price-Fixing Claim

An understanding of the legal structure of a price-fixing claim under the Sherman Antitrust Act gives context to the facts relied on by plaintiffs on summary judgment.

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635 F.3d 571 *; 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 3276 **; 2011-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) P77,352

WILLIAM WHITE et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. R.M. PACKER CO., INC., et al., Defendants, Appellees.

Prior History:  [**1] APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Rya W. Zobel, U.S. District Judge.

White v. R. M. Packer Co., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 144989 (D. Mass., Jan. 6, 2010)

CORE TERMS

prices, stations, margins, plaintiffs', district court, defendants', retail, price-gouging, conspiracy, parallelism, costs, conscious, gasoline, wholesale, increases, gas station, antitrust, disparity, island, emergency, dropped, factors, summary judgment, unconscionably, regulation, customers, price-fixing, increased price, supracompetitive, competitors

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Antitrust & Trade Law, Sherman Act, Scope, General Overview, Claims, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Trade Practices & Unfair Competition, State Regulation, Scope, Energy & Utilities Law, Oil & Petroleum Products, Gasoline Fuels, Gasoline Dealers & Distributors, Antitrust Issues, Pricing Conduct, Regulated Practices, Federal Trade Commission Act