To maintain an antitrust claim, be it federal or state, plaintiffs must show that defendants conspired to unreasonably restrain trade or commerce. 15 U.S.C.S. § 1; N.J. Stat. Ann. § 56: 9-3. The New Jersey Antitrust Act shall be construed in harmony with ruling judicial interpretations of comparable federal antitrust statutes.
Alleging violations of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), as well as state statutory and tort law, the plaintiff union health care funds filed suit against the defendant tobacco companies. The companies sought the dismissal of the complaint for either failure to state a claim or failure to join parties necessary. The court granted the companies' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim as to five of the funds' causes of action, but denied the companies' motion to dismiss for failure to join necessary parties.
Did plaintiff have antitrust standing to bring forth their claim?
The funds' fraud claim on behalf of their participants was, as a matter of law, too remote to support the proximate cause necessary to predicate fraud. For a similar reason, the civil RICO claim that the funds made on behalf of their participants failed as well. The funds' claims under the Sherman Act and New Jersey Antitrust Act failed due to lack of standing in that the union health care funds had not suffered an injury of the type that the antitrust laws were designed to redress. The funds' breach of special duty tort claim failed because the companies owed no duty to the funds. The unjust enrichment claim was dismissed because the companies' received no actionable benefit from the funds. The funds' Fed. R. Civ. P. 19 motion was also denied.