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From Antitrust Law Daily, September 16, 2014

Trail riding business owner suing ex-partner failed to allege antitrust injury

By Linda O’Brien, J.D., LL.M.

An owner of a horseback trail riding business failed to sufficiently plead a plausible antitrust claim in an action against his former business partner, the federal district court in Missoula, Montana has held. The owner did not plead any facts plausibly stating that conduct by the ex-partner and others caused an actual injury to competition (Weik v. Goldberg, September 12, 2014, Lynch, J.).

From 2011 through 2013, David Weik and Thresa Goldberg commenced two business ventures under the names Misty Blu Trail Rides and Healing Equine Assisted Rehabilitation Therapy (H.E.A.R.T.) for which each agreed to engage in various business startup tasks. During the business formation, the parties resided together at various times. After several confrontational meetings regarding the businesses, in May 2014, Goldberg filed a civil action against Weik regarding their business and personal relationships and obtained a permanent restraining order against Weik extending to their residence, real property that Weik intended to purchase, and a horseback riding trail access point.

Weik filed suit against Goldberg, Frank Broad, a friend and roommate, and Sara Vilhuber, Goldberg’s sister, alleging individual and conspiratorial conduct in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, among other claims. Weik asserted that Goldberg breached their operating agreement entered in forming Misty Blu Trail Ride, LLC and all of the defendants engaged in conduct which harmed his business opportunities. The defendants moved for dismissal.

Antitrust injury. The court found that Weik failed to allege any facts plausibly stating that the defendants’ conduct caused an actual injury to market competition. To state a claim under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, a plaintiff must plead facts which show (1) a conspiracy among two or more persons; (2) by which the persons intended to restrain trade; (3) which actually injures competition; and (4) the plaintiff was harmed by the defendant’s anticompetitive conspiracy.

Weik alleged that the defendants acted in a cooperative manner causing restraint of trade, harming his businesses, and causing him damages. He argued that Goldberg removed his contact telephone number associated with the Misty Blu Trail Rides business, removed the business website from the Internet, and made negative statements to a prospective customer that were damaging to the business. The court noted that Weik did not identify any provision of the Sherman Act upon which his claim was based or assert that Goldberg’s conduct adversely affected market competition. Since he asserted that the defendants conduct harmed only him and his businesses, the court concluded that Weik failed to allege any injury to competition in general as to state a claim for relief under the Sherman Act.

The case is No. 14-182-M-DLC-JCL.

Attorneys: David L. Weik, pro se. Jori Lydia Quinlan (Worden Thane) for Thresa Goldberg.

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust MontanaNews

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