Anti-trust Violation.

Byline: Derek Hawkins

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Marion Healthcare, LLC, et al. v. Becton Dickinson & Company, et al.

Case No.: 18-3735

Officials: WOOD, Chief Judge, and KANNE and BARRETT, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Anti-trust Violation

Since the Supreme Court's decision in Illinois Brick v. Illinois, 431 U.S. 720 (1977), only those buyers who purchased products directly from the antitrust violator have a claim against that party for treble damages. "Indirect purchasers" who paid too much for a product because cartel or monopoly overcharges were passed on to them by middlemen must take their lumps and hope that the market will eventually sort everything out. See, e.g., Sharif Pharm., Inc. v. Prime Therapeutics, LLC, Nos. 18-2725 and 18-3003, 2020 WL 881267 at *2 (7th Cir. Feb. 24, 2020). Matters are different, however, when a monopolist enters into a conspiracy with its distributors. In such cases, "the first buyer from a conspirator is the right party to sue." Paper Sys. Inc. v. Nippon Paper Indus. Co., 281 F.3d 629, 631 (7th Cir. 2002).

The plaintiffs in this case ("the Providers") are healthcare companies that purchased medical devices manufactured by Becton Dickinson & Company. Healthcare providers often do not purchase medical devices directly from the manufacturer; instead, they join a group purchasing organization, known in the trade as a GPO. The GPO negotiates prices with the manufacturer on behalf of its members. It then presents the terms to the provider, which has the opportunity to accept them or reject them. If the provider agrees to the terms, it chooses a distributor to deliver the product. The distributor then enters into contracts with the healthcare provider and the manufacturer. These contracts obligate the distributor to procure the products from the manufacturer and to sell them to the provider. The distribution contracts with the providers incorporate the price and other terms of the agreements that the GPO negotiated, plus a markup for the chosen distributor.

Our Providers purchased medical devices in the manner just described. A GPO negotiated with Becton on the Providers' behalf, and a distributor delivered the devices. Had Becton acted alone...

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