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Gentex Corp. v. Helicopter Helmets, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 11, 2018

GENTEX CORPORATION, Plaintiff.
v.
HELICOPTER HELMET, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

         Helicopter Helmet, LLC, moved to dismiss Gentex Corporation's Amended Complaint. For the reasons that follow, that motion will be denied in part and granted in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This Court explained the background of this action in its Memorandum Opinion on Helicopter Helmet's first motion to dismiss, [1] and will therefore not do so again.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Whether Helicopter Helmet's Antitrust Suit Against Gentex Was “Related to” the 2012 Pennsylvania Lawsuit

         This Court previously held that Gentex's original complaint failed to sufficiently allege that Helicopter Helmet's antitrust claims were “in any way related to” the 2012 Pennsylvania Lawsuit such that they would be barred by the Settlement and Release Agreement. Helicopter Helmet argues that Gentex has failed to cure that deficiency. This Court respectfully disagrees.

         In its Amended Complaint, Gentex alleges that, during discovery in the 2012 Pennsylvania Lawsuit, Helicopter Helmet “threatened to pursue claims against Gentex . . . for alleged antitrust violations.”[2] From this allegation (which was not in the original complaint), this Court can-and therefore must[3]-assume that Helicopter Helmet threatened to bring these claims either as additional counterclaims in the 2012 Pennsylvania Lawsuit or in a separate action in retaliation for that 2012 Pennsylvania Lawsuit. Consequently, the claims may be “related to” the 2012 Pennsylvania Lawsuit in some way.[4]

         B. Whether the Settlement and Release Agreement is Prohibited Under Pennsylvania Law

         Helicopter Helmet argues that, even if the Settlement and Release Agreement can be read to apply to Helicopter Helmet's antitrust claims against Gentex, the agreement is unenforceable under Pennsylvania law because it would release Gentex from liability for intentional tortious conduct.[5]

         It is true that, under Pennsylvania law, “parties are not permitted to intentionally harm one another, ” and Pennsylvania courts will not enforce exculpatory contracts attempting to release intentionally harmful conduct.[6]However, that bar applies only when parties are attempting to contract around liability for future conduct.[7] Helicopter Helmet's complaint in Delaware argues that Gentex violated various state and federal antitrust laws through a course of conduct that allegedly began in 2013. The Settlement and Release Agreement was entered into on March 25, 2015. Therefore, if the agreement is found to apply to Helicopter Helmet's antitrust claims, it would not be void as against public policy, since it was entered into after that allegedly anticompetitive conduct occurred.[8]

         C. Whether Count III Should Be Dismissed or Transferred Under the First-Filed Rule

         Finally, Helicopter Helmet argues-as it did in its first motion to dismiss- that this Court, pursuant to the “first-filed rule, ” should stay proceedings on Gentex's antitrust claims, or in the alternative, transfer this case to the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. For the reasons discussed previously, [9] this Court will stay proceedings[10] on Count III of Gentex's Amended Complaint.[11]

         III. ...


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