United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendants Metropolitan Taxicab
Commission of Metropolitan St. Louis, (MTC), Asfaw, Hamilton,
McNutt, and Rudawsky's Motion to Dismiss or, in the
Alternative, A Judgment on the Pleadings, [Doc. No. 39],
Defendants St. Louis County and Yellow Cab Company, Best
Transportation, Inc., Best Black Car, LLC, and Best Sedan
Services, LLC's Motion to Dismiss, [Doc. No. 41] and
Gateway Taxi Management Company, d/b/a Laclede Cab
Company's Motion to Dismiss, [Doc. No. 45],
(Collectively, the Taxi Defendants). Plaintiffs oppose the
motions. For the reasons set forth below, the MTC and
Individual Defendant's Motion is denied. The Taxi
Defendants' Motions are granted.
brought this action alleging violations of the Sherman Act,
15 U.S.C. § 1, by Defendants in Defendants attempt to
prohibit Uber and those using the uberX product from
operating in the City and County of St. Louis, Missouri.
Plaintiffs claim that riders, drivers and Uber, a
Transportation Network Company, (TNC) are prohibited by the
actions of Defendants from competing in the St. Louis market
for-hire transportation. Plaintiffs claim to bring this
antitrust action to put “an end to the anticompetitive
conduct of Defendant MTC and several of its commissioners
(the “Commissioner Defendants”), many of whom are
active market participants in the very market that the MTC
regulates.” According to Plaintiffs, acting under the
control of these market-participant members, the MTC, which
is vested with the authority to regulate vehicles for hire,
their drivers, and vehicle-for-hire companies in the City of
St. Louis and St. Louis County, has abused its authority in
order to stifle competition.
MTC and the individual commissioners move to dismiss based on
immunity from suit. The Taxi Defendants move to dismiss move
based on a failure to state a claim under a theory of
respondeat superior, and immunity.
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint
so as to eliminate those actions “which are fatally
flawed in their legal premises and deigned to fail, thereby
sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and
trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles,
244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). “To
survive a motion to dismiss, a claim must be facially
plausible, meaning that the ‘factual content...allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.' ” Cole
v. Homier Dist. Co., Inc., 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir.
2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). The Court must “accept the allegations
contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.”
Id. (quoting Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d
1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005)). However, “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, ” will not pass muster.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
contract, combination in the form of a trust or otherwise, or
conspiracy, in restraint of trade” is illegal under
§ 1 of the Sherman Act. 15 U.S.C. § 1. Section 1 is
not read literally, but rather prohibits only
“unreasonable” restraints of trade.
Texaco Inc. v. Dagher, 547 U.S. 1, 5 (2006)
(emphasis in original) (citations omitted). Thus, courts
“presumptively appl[y] the rule of reason analysis,
under which antitrust plaintiffs must demonstrate that a
particular contract or combination is in fact unreasonable
and anticompetitive before it will be found unlawful.”
antitrust laws do not, however, bar sovereign states from
imposing market restraints “as an act of
government.” Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341,
352 (1943). Because cities, towns, and other political
subdivisions are not themselves sovereign, the Supreme Court
has made clear that Parker does not apply directly
to them. See Columbia v. Omni Outdoor Advertising,
Inc., 499 U.S. 365, 370, (1991); Lafayette v. La.
Power & Light Co., 435 U.S. 389, 411-13 (1978)
(plurality opinion). Rather, substate governmental entities
receive immunity from antitrust scrutiny only when they act
“pursuant to state policy to displace competition with
regulation or monopoly public service.”
Lafayette, 435 U.S. at 413. This rule is designed to
preserve to the States “their freedom ... to use their
municipalities to administer state regulatory policies free
of the inhibitions of the federal antitrust laws without at
the same time permitting purely parochial interests to
disrupt the Nation's free-market goals.”
Id. at 415-16.
Supreme Court addressed antitrust immunity for substate
governmental entities in FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health Sys.
Inc., __U.S.__, 133 S.Ct. 1003 (2013). In
Phoebe, the Supreme Court reiterated that
“immunity will only attach to the activities of local
governmental entities if they are undertaken pursuant to a
‘clearly articulated and affirmatively expressed'
state policy to displace competition.” Phoebe,
133 S.Ct. at 1011 (quoting Cmty. Commc'ns Co. v.
Boulder, 455 U.S. 40, 52 (1982)). The “clear
articulation” test requires that the anticompetitive
effect of the challenged action be a “foreseeable
result” of what the state authorized. Id. Mere
state-law authorization to act is insufficient to establish
state action immunity; “the substate governmental
entity must also show that it has been delegated authority to
act or regulate anticompetitively.” Phoebe,
133 S.Ct. at 1012 (citing Omni, 499 U.S. at 372)
Court has acknowledged that it would be
“unrealistic” to “require state
legislatures to explicitly authorize specific
anticompetitive effects before state action immunity could
apply” because “‘[n]o legislature can be
expected to catalog all of the anticipated effects' of a
statute delegating authority to a substate governmental
entity.” Phoebe, 133 S.Ct. at 1012 (emphasis
added) (quoting Hallie, 471 U.S. at 43).
“Instead, we have approached the clear-articulation
inquiry more practically, but without diluting the ultimate
requirement that the State must have affirmatively
contemplated the displacement of competition such that the
challenged anticompetitive effects can be attributed to the
‘state itself.'” Id. at 1013
(quoting Parker, 317 U.S. at 352). “[A] state
policy to displace federal antitrust law [is] sufficiently
expressed where the displacement of competition [is] the
inherent, logical, or ordinary result of the exercise of
authority delegated by the state legislature.”
Phoebe, 133 S.Ct. at 1012-13. “In that
scenario, the State must have foreseen and implicitly
endorsed the anticompetitive effects as consistent with its
policy goals.” Id. at 1013.
recently, the Supreme Court has had occasion to again address
Parker immunity in North Carolina State Board of
Dental Examiners v. ...