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DPWN Holdings (USA), Inc. v. United Air Lines, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 27, 2014

DPWN HOLDINGS (USA), INCORPORATED, Plaintiff-Counter-Defendant-Appellee,
v.
UNITED AIR LINES, INC., DBA UNITED AIRLINES, UNITED CONTINENTAL HOLDINGS, INCORPORATED, FKA UAL CORPORATION, Defendants-Counter-Claimants-Appellants

Heard September 30, 2013

Interlocutory appeal from the May 18, 2012, order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (John Gleeson, District Judge), denying a motion to dismiss a complaint alleging an antitrust claim. Appellants contend the claim was discharged in bankruptcy.

Remanded.

Charles A. Rothfeld, Mayer Brown, LLP, Washington, DC (Richard J. Favretto, John Roberti, Michael B. Kimberly, Mayer Brown LLP, Washington, DC, on the brief), for Appellants.

J. Peter Coll, Jr., Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, New York, N.Y. (Garret G. Rasmussen, Robert M. Loeb, Rachel Wainer Apter, Antony P. Kim, Ryan K. Quillian, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Washington, DC, on the brief), for Appellee.

Before: NEWMAN, POOLER, and LIVINGSTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 146

JON O. NEWMAN, Circuit Judge.

The issue on this interlocutory appeal from an order denying a motion to dismiss an antitrust price-fixing claim is whether

Page 147

the plaintiff had sufficient notice of the availability of the claim against a Chapter 11 debtor to satisfy due process requirements and render the claim discharged. This issue arises on an appeal by Defendants-Appellants United Air Lines, Inc., DBA United Airlines, and United Continental Holdings, Inc., FKA UAL Corp. (collectively " United" ), from the May 18, 2012, order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (John Gleeson, District Judge), denying United's motion to dismiss an antitrust complaint brought against it by Plaintiff-Appellee DPWN Holdings (" DHL" ). See DPWN Holdings (USA), Inc. v. United Air Lines, Inc . (" Dist. Ct. Op ." ), 871 F.Supp.2d 143 (E.D.N.Y. 2012).

We conclude that, in the circumstances of this case, the District Court applied an incorrect standard in accepting as true DHL's allegation that it was not aware of, or with due diligence could not have become aware of, sufficient facts to plead an antitrust claim that would survive a motion to dismiss in the context of a bankruptcy proceeding. We therefore remand for further development of the facts concerning (a) what DHL knew or reasonably should have known in time to present an antitrust claim in the bankruptcy proceeding, or to file a late proof of claim or move to amend the reorganization plan and (b) what United knew or reasonably should have known concerning DHL's claim.

Background

Facts concerning the alleged price-fixing conspiracy. Because this appeal is from the denial of a motion to dismiss, the facts regarding United's alleged involvement in the price-fixing conspiracy are taken from DHL's complaint and are assumed to be true. See Bryant v. N.Y. State Education Department, 692 F.3d 202, 210 (2d Cir. 2012). United was a member of the International Air Transport Association (" IATA" ) at all times relevant to this appeal. IATA enjoyed limited antitrust immunity in the European Union through a " block exemption." In 1993, the European Union's Directorate General for Competition (" DGC" ) sent a letter to an official at IATA specifying that the block exemption did not cover the coordinated implementation of surcharges. This letter was shared with IATA members. The United States Department of Transportation (" DOT" ) communicated a similar conclusion to IATA. Nevertheless, in 1993 IATA adopted a surcharge " upon the pretext of recouping increased costs." As a result, the DGC withdrew IATA's block exemption and subsequently denied an application for an individual exemption for the surcharge.

On August 9, 1996, United and two other airlines, Lufthansa and Scandinavian Airlines (" SAS" ) entered into an agreement to provide " globally integrated air transportation services in competition with other carriers and carrier alliances while remaining independent companies." On November 1, 1996, DOT issued an order permitting the alliance and providing it limited antitrust immunity. However, the agreement prohibited the airlines from " exchang[ing] information, discuss[ing], agree[ing] upon, or coordinat[ing] . . . on any subject or in any manner that would cause any Party to contravene (i) any law . . . ."

In early 1997, members of IATA considered joint strategies to manage increases in the price of aviation fuel, including implementing fuel surcharges. At that time, members of IATA considered the antitrust risks of coordinated surcharging. Minutes from an IATA conference on the ...


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