On November 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a decision reversing the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, and holding that Village Supermarkets, Inc. (Village), which attempted to thwart the plans of Hanover 3201 Realty LLC (Hanover Realty) to develop its property with a competitor supermarket, may be subject to an antitrust claim brought by Hanover Realty.
The case began when Village learned that Wegmans was looking to construct a supermarket on property owned by Hanover Realty approximately two miles from an existing Village-owned Shop Rite. Under Wegmans' agreement with Hanover Realty, Hanover Realty was to obtain the required permits for the construction of the Wegmans supermarket within two years, or Wegmans could terminate the contract. Hanover Realty initially applied for a flood hazard area permit from the NJDEP. Village filed numerous objections to Hanover Realty's application, which the NJDEP ultimately found were without merit. Hanover Realty likewise sought a wetlands permit from the NJDEP for the project. Village made numerous filings with the NJDEP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in opposition to Hanover Realty's wetlands permit. Ultimately, the NJDEP issued the requested permit subject to conditions. In addition, Hanover Realty sought a major street intersection permit from the NJDOT in connection with improvements to a nearby intersection in connection with the Wegmans' project. Village again objected to Hanover Realty's application. The NJDOT ultimately recommended that Hanover Realty negotiate a modification of an existing agreement with the NJDOT. Lastly, after Hanover Realty received approval of its final site plan and request for a bulk variance, Village contested the approval by filing an appeal in lieu of prerogative writs challenging the approval with the New Jersey Superior Court. Ultimately Village's complaint was dismissed on both standing and substantive grounds.
Hanover Realty then sued Village (and an affiliate) in the District Court for the District of New Jersey alleging violations of Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act for "attempted monopolization of and conspiracy to monopolize the greater Morristown full-service supermarket market, and the greater Morristown full-service supermarket shopping center market" which was comprised of the market for supermarket rental space. The district court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that Hanover Realty did not have antitrust standing because it was neither a competitor nor a consumer in the constrained markets. Hanover Realty appealed the district court's dismissal to the Third Circuit.
The Third Circuit concluded that the district court took "too narrow a view of antitrust injury" in connection with Hanover Realty's claim for the attempted monopolization of the market for full-service supermarkets. It held that Hanover Realty "can establish that its injury was 'inextricably intertwined'" with Defendant's [Village's] anticompetitive conduct. The Third Circuit also found that Hanover Realty "sufficiently alleged that the ... activity here was undertaken without regard to the merits of the claims and for the purpose of using the governmental process to restrain trade," and therefore, Village was not entitled to immunity under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, because its "conduct falls within the exception for sham litigation." As to the claim for attempted monopolization of the market for rental space, the Third Circuit held the district court was correct in finding that Hanover Realty had no standing because "Hanover Realty does not compete with Defendants in that market." The matter was remanded to the district court.This decision by the Third Circuit has broad implications for property owners who attempt to challenge developments or land use approvals obtained by business competitors where the clear basis for those challenges relates to anticompetitive purposes. Thus, if the motives of competitors are anticompetitive in nature, those motives may be actionable under an antitrust violation theory. The case is Hanover 3201 Realty LLC v. Village Supermarkets, Inc., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 19694 (3d Cir. Nov. 12, 2015) (approved for publication).
Day Pitney Commercial Litigation and White Collar Partner Naju R. Lathia and Employment and Labor and Regulated Substances Attorney Daniel Pierre authored the article, "Proceed with Caution: NJ's Green Lighting of Recreational Cannabis May Require Detours," for the New Jersey Law Journal.
On March 17, Day Pitney's Director of Marketing Shana Gillis will be serving on the panel, "The Ethical Parameters of Attorneys' Use of Social Media Platforms," at the 45th Annual Judicial Conference sponsored by the Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey (AFBNJ).
Judge Christopher F. Droney (ret.) and Matthew Austin authored the article, "2022 Brings New Priorities in Civil and Criminal Enforcement for U.S. Justice Department," for the Expert Opinion column of the Connecticut Law Tribune.
Miami attorney Andrew Ingalls moderated the panel, "The Future of the Death Penalty in Florida," at the South Florida Chapter of the American Constitution on November 12.
On October 22, Partner and General Counsel Elizabeth J. Sher was a panelist at the Attorneys' Liability Assurance Society webinar titled, "Who Can You Trust? The Dangers of Serving As and Representing Fiduciaries."
Day Pitney Florida Litigation Partner Mark Romance was featured on the American Bar Association's Legal Talk Network's Litigation Radio Podcast titled, "How to Handle the Unexpected in Court."
Christopher F. Droney was interviewed by Kara Sundlin of WFSB 3 CBS Connecticut regarding the draft opinion leak in Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court.
On March 31, Day Pitney attorneys Mark Romance and Andrew Ingalls won a significant class action lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California for Mojo Dialing Solutions, LLC.
Day Pitney Partners William J. Roberts and Christopher F. Droney were both selected as recipients of the Distinguished Leaders Award in the 2022 Connecticut Legal Awards, sponsored by the Connecticut Law Tribune.
Day Pitney's election of 11 attorneys to partnership nationwide, including two in its New Jersey office was featured in the New Jersey Law Journal's On the Move column.