On July 13, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a state Court of Appeals decision allowing a plaintiff to assert claims for price-fixing and market division under Wisconsin antitrust law. Meyers v. Bayer AG, 2007 WI 99, ___ Wis.2d ___, ___ N.W.2d ___. The decision turned on the intended scope of Wis. Stat. § 133.03, which prohibits combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade. In seeking dismissal at the trial court level, the defendants had argued that Wisconsin’s antitrust statute should only reach in-state conduct and should not be construed to overlap federal antitrust law which regulates interstate commerce. The Supreme Court rejected this view, holding that a state-law antitrust claim may be brought when the challenged conduct either occurred within the state or "substantially affected the people of Wisconsin and had impacts in this state." Id., ¶ 57.
The underlying claims in Meyers involved allegations that a group of pharmaceutical manufacturers unlawfully restrained trade when they settled a dispute over patent rights by agreeing to a division of markets within the United States for a popular antibiotic medication. It was undisputed that the alleged conduct occurred in New York and Germany.
Because the Court’s decision provides a broad interpretation of Wisconsin antitrust laws, potential implications may include an increase in the types and number of lawsuits commenced in Wisconsin, even where the alleged conduct has occurred elsewhere. The decision also has a more immediate impact in clarifying how a claim must be pled to avoid dismissal. A copy of the Supreme Court’s decision may be found at http://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=29710.
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