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Combat v. Championships

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 29, 2015

XTREME CAGED COMBAT, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
CAGE FURY FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS, et. al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

LAWRENCE F. STENGEL, District Judge.

Ryan Kerwin and Xtreme Caged Combat filed this pro se antitrust complaint against several competing mixed martial arts fight promotors, two casinos and one casino executive. Plaintiffs also append a count for tortious interference with prospective contractual relations. The casinos and the executive now move to dismiss the amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the motion in part.

I Background

Ryan Kerwin owns and operates Xtreme Caged Combat (XCC). XCC is licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to promote mixed martial arts (MMA) events. Am. compl. ¶¶ 3, 4. MMA is a combat sport which features two competitors fighting inside an enclosed area. Id . ¶ 66. Rob Haydak owns defendant Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC). Id . ¶¶ 5, 7. David Feldman owns defendant Xtreme Fight Events (XFE). Id . ¶¶ 6, 8. CFFC and XFE also promote MMA events in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Id . ¶¶ 5, 6. Since plaintiffs allege that XFE has merged into CFFC, Id . ¶ 45, I will refer to CFFC when discussing allegations against the fight promotor defendants

Plaintiffs allege that CFFC illegally conspired with Chester Downs and Marina LLC and Valley Forge Casino Resort to monopolize and restrict trade in the MMA events market in the Philadelphia Region. Id . ¶¶ 65-72. Chester Downs and Marina LLC operates a casino in Chester, Pennsylvania more commonly known as Harrah's. Id . ¶ 9. Valley Forge Casino Resort operates a casino in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Id . ¶ 12. Valley Forge employs Joel Freedman as its Vice President of Player Development. Id . ¶ 15. Mr. Feldman and Mr. Freedman are friends, and Mr. Feldman leveraged this relationship to secure exclusive venue agreements between CFFC and each casino. Id . ¶¶ 19, 34, 95.

Pursuant to the exclusive venue contracts, Harrah's or Valley Forge will pay CFFC $10, 000 for every match it hosts at its respective casino. Id . ¶¶ 19, 20, 34. The casinos provide CFFC with a free venue, chairs, tables and other perks. Id . The contract gives CFFC the exclusive right to host MMA events at the casinos. Id . As a result, plaintiffs are blocked from hosting events at both casinos. Id . Plaintiffs admit that there are other facilities where they can host MMA events. Id . ¶ 52. However, MMA promotors are unable to make a profit at these other venues. Id . ¶¶ 31, 52. According to plaintiffs, by controlling these casino venues, CFFC will drive its competition out of business and achieve a monopoly in the MMA event market in the Philadelphia region. Id . ¶ 61. As a result of its dominant market position, CFFC has already increased ticket prices for its events. Id . ¶ 60. CFFC has also signed over 60 professional fighters to exclusive deals. Id . ¶ 61.

On September 8, 2014, Mr. Kerwin filed a pro se antitrust complaint on behalf of himself and XCC. By orders dated October 27, 2014 and November 10, 2014, I advised Mr. Kerwin, who is not an attorney, that he may not represent XCC. See Simbraw, Inc. v. United States, 367 F.2d 373, 373-74 (3d Cir.1966) (holding that a corporation may not be represented by its president in court and that an attorney must appear for it and represent it in the litigation). Subsequently, attorney Jordan Rushie entered his appearance for Xtreme Caged Combat. The casino defendants moved to dismiss the complaint. Doc. no. 4 (Valley Forge); doc. no. 39 (Harrah's). Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, as of right, which added the charges against Mr. Freedman. Doc. no. 45. The casinos and Mr. Freedman renewed their objections to the allegations in separate motions to dismiss the amended complaint. Doc. no. 47 (Valley Forge); doc. no. 53 (Harrah's); doc. no. 56 (Freedman's notice of joinder in Valley Forge's motion).

II Standard of Review

A complaint must set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, but a plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" to show entitlement to relief as prescribed by Rule 8(a)(2). Id. at 1965; Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005). A defendant may attack a complaint by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), I may consider "the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record." Pension Ben.Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The court is required to accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), and all reasonable inferences permitted by the factual allegations, Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2007), viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007). The court is not, however, "compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (quotations and citations omitted). If the facts alleged are sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level" such that the plaintiffs' claim is "plausible on its face, " a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss. Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 1974; Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2007).

III Discussion

a) Antitrust Standing

Standing is a threshold requirement in all actions in federal court. Ethypharm S.A. France v. Abbott Labs., 707 F.3d 223, 232 (3d Cir. 2013). Section 4 of the Clayton Act creates a private cause of action and confers standing on persons injured by an antitrust violation. The statute provides:

any person who shall be injured in his business or property by reason of anything forbidden in the antitrust laws may sue therefor in any district court of the United States... and shall recover threefold the damages by him sustained, and the cost of suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee.

15 U.S.C. § 15(a). "Questions of statutory standing, like other factual issues, are considered under the same pleading requirements as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)." Animal Sci. Products, Inc. v. China Minmetals Corp., 05-CV-04376, 2014 WL 3695329 (D.N.J. July 24, 2014) (citing Baldwin v. Univ. of Pittsburgh Med. Ctr., 636 F.3d 69, 73 (3d Cir.2011).

Interpreting the statute, the Supreme Court has recognized that "Congress did not intend to allow every person tangentially affected by an antitrust violation to maintain an action to recover threefold damages for the injury to his business or property." Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 535 (1983) (quoting Blue Shield of Va. v. McCready, 457 U.S. 465, 477 (1982)). Courts have ...


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