Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Flood of antitrust class actions over app distribution spills over to state court: Beverage v. Apple pending in Superior Court of California

Just after I wrote in my previous post (Class action complaint against Apple over offering Apple Arcade while not allowing Microsoft xCloud, Google Stadia, Facebook Gaming, GeForce Now ) that "[a]pp distribution antitrust cases--especially class actions--are springing up like mushrooms now," another case was mentioned in yet another joint case management statement (a filing that my next post will cover in more detail):

Beverage et al. v. Apple, Inc., No. 20-cv-370535, filed in the Superior Court of California on September 17, 2020

That is a state court. I haven't obtained the complaint yet, but it's obvious that this must be a case raising Unfair Competition Law (UCL) issues. State UCL and federal antitrust law (Sherman Act) have some overlaps.

Epic Games and other plaintiffs in federal court have brought state UCL claims in addition to claims under federal antitrust law. Federal courts can rule on state law claims under the diversity jurisdiction rule (28 U.S.C. § 1332), which applies since Epic Games v. Apple involves companies from two different states (California and North Carolina) and is undoubtedly about more than $75K, in addition to the factual overlap between Epic's Sherman Act and UCL claims (supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367).

Both Apple and Epic have reserved the right to file a motion to relate that Beverage case with the set of federal lawsuits in Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers's court. Also, a court can take the initiative to relate cases (sua sponte).

The logistical implications here would be significant. Even though both courts are based in California, one is a federal district court and the other a state court.

One possibility would be for the state court to simply stay its case until the federal cases have been resolved (including all appeals), especially given that Judge Gonzalez Rogers is really determined to resolve those app store matters swiftly. I can't imagine any judge would have set a more ambitious schedule in Epic Games v. Apple.

Will there be even more filings? It's possible that the recent Congressional report, which the Pistacchio complaint (see my previous post) mentions, inspires further filings. Some class action law firms may still be looking for parties willing to become class action plaintiffs...

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