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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Class Loses Ground in Plasma Antitrust Case

CHICAGO (CN) - A federal judge may sever a component lawsuit from the multidistrict antitrust case involving the leading suppliers of certain blood therapies.

Across various federal districts, direct and indirect purchasers of plasma have brought almost 20 actions against Baxter International, three CSL entities and the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association. Pennsylvania-based Baxter and Australia-based CSL are the world's largest and second largest suppliers of plasma-derivative protein therapies for rare immune-deficiency diseases, coagulation disorders and respiratory diseases.

With facilitation from the trade organization, the companies allegedly conspired to restrict output of blood plasma to artificially control the prices of plasma-derivative protein therapies in the United States.

As multidistrict litigation got underway in Chicago, the county of San Mateo, Calif., brought its own putative class action, claiming that it was "forced to keep purchasing plasma-derivative protein therapies on the spot market at a higher price due to supply shortages caused by the defendants' conspiracy."

Though the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred the San Mateo case to join the others, U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall appears poised to sever after finding last week that San Mateo lacks antitrust standing to pursue federal claims.

While San Mateo has standing to pursue its state-law claims, Gottschall said there was no basis for federal standing because the California county did not purchase plasma therapies in other states.

San Mateo alleges "a core antitrust injury," but Supreme Court precedent requires a "proper plaintiff" determination based on the court's "case-by-case analysis of the link between a plaintiff's harm and a defendant's wrongdoing," Gottschall said.

"In this case, the existence of a less remote party to vindicate the public interest is no hypothetical proposition: the direct purchasers are actively pursuing their claims, and they seek damages and the same injunctive relief sought by San Mateo," the 19-page decision states. "By denying San Mateo leave to proceed, the court will not 'leave a significant antitrust violation undetected or unremedied.'"

With the federal claim dismissed, Gottschall held the remaining issues in abeyance and ordered the parties to submit briefs as to jurisdiction and the propriety of keeping this case as part of the multidistrict referral.

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