Legal Roundup: Spirit/JetBlue Merger Challenged, Ivy League Sued for Athlete Price-Fixing and More

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block the airline merger, which it characterized as “presumptively illegal.”
By: | March 22, 2023

U.S. Seeks $8 Million for Nippon Maru Pier Crash Allegedly Caused by Alcohol

The Case: The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against the cruise ship Nippon Maru and its owners, Mitsui O.S.K. Passenger Lines and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, in the District Court of Guam.

A pier accident at Apra Harbor in 2018 was said to be “caused mainly by the ship master’s alcohol drinking,” according to Pacific Daily News. The Nippon Maru struck a Navy fueling wharf, resulting in over $8 million in damages.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: No settlement had been reached prior to the filing, despite multiple attempts. The DOJ’s lawsuit suggests that selling off the Nippon Maru will provide sufficient cash to pay for damages.

The vessel, “carrying 524 passengers and 224 crew members, was headed to Saipan when it hit the fueling wharf while still at Apra Harbor,” reported Pacific Daily News. No injuries or pollution were reported.

Amazon Not Responsible for Remote Work Expenses

The Case: A proposed class action was filed in San Francisco district court on behalf of nearly 7,000 California Amazon employees who sought reimbursement for home office expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plaintiff David Williams, who was the named party in the suit, wanted the eCommerce giant to pay for internet and cell phones, among other expenses.

Scorecard: U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria has denied Williams’ motion to certify the workers as a class.

Takeaway: The judge said that Williams “failed to show that Amazon had a company-wide policy of not reimbursing employees,” according to Reuters.

“The judge said that more than 600 of the 7,000 proposed class members were reimbursed $66.49 on average for home internet expenses, and some were reimbursed in full.”

Because the motion was denied without prejudice, Williams can file a renewed motion in the future.

Is the Ivy League Athletic Scholarship Ban Illegal?

The Case: Current and former basketball players at Brown University have filed suit against all eight Ivy League schools and the Ivy League Council of Presidents.

Plaintiffs allege that the schools all “engage in illegal price-fixing by not awarding athletic scholarships,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The suit, filed in Connecticut federal court, wants rules that apply to the NCAA to apply to the Ivy League conference as well.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: The new NCAA rules are the result of a 2021 Supreme Court decision that said compensation limits violated antitrust laws because they unlawfully prevented schools from competing for talent.

“The Ivy League suit seeks triple damages for a class of current and former athletes going back to March 2019, and an injunction to end the no-athletic-scholarships pact among Ivy League schools,” according to the WSJ.

U.S. Government Sues to Block Spirit/JetBlue Merger

The Case: In an effort to halt the sale of Spirit Airlines to JetBlue, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit in Boston federal court.

Massachusetts, New York and Washington, D.C., joined the complaint. Quoting Merrick Garland, Reuters reported that “the planned $3.8 billion merger ‘will lead to higher fares and fewer seats, harming millions of consumers on hundreds of routes.’ ”

Scorecard: The case has just been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: Even at the outset of merger talks, the acquisition of the ultra-low-cost carrier raised antitrust concerns.

“Garland said Spirit’s internal documents show that when it enters a market fares fall by 17%, while JetBlue’s internal documents show that when Spirit stops flying a route, fares go up by 30%,” reported Reuters. The DOJ called the deal “presumptively illegal.” &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].

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