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Solo Cup Defeats Civil Antitrust Suit at U.S. Supreme Court

Published: 10-05-2017

V&E clients Dart Container Corporation and its subsidiary Solo Cup Company LLC have won a significant victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to revive civil antitrust litigation accusing the companies of blocking competition in the plastics raw material market.

On October 2, 2017, the high court denied Evergreen Partnering Group’s petition for writ of certiorari, which sought to reinstate the lawsuit against Dart, Solo and three other manufacturers of polystyrene foodservice products, as well as a plastics trade association. The Supreme Court’s ruling comes one year after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected Evergreen’s case.

Evergreen, a start-up plastics recycler, initially brought the case in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, claiming that it had developed an economically viable processing program for recycling polystyrene foodservice products and re-selling them to the defendants as raw material.  Evergreen alleged the defendants opposed recycling polystyrene foodservice products and conspired to block its entry into the plastics raw material market, as well as the market for recycled end-products.

In fact, the evidence showed that Evergreen’s manufacturing process was flawed and could not produce an economically viable, technically acceptable product. The evidence showed that Dart, Solo and the other companies were very interested in recycling, but Evergreen was not a reliable source or business partner.

V&E initially obtained a complete dismissal for Dart and Solo at the district court in 2012, but the First Circuit reversed in 2013. On remand, following a period of discovery, V&E litigation partner William Lawler led the defense group’s combined motion for summary judgment, which was granted in July 2015.

Evergreen appealed to the First Circuit, which affirmed summary judgment in August 2016, concluding that Evergreen had failed to show plausible evidence of a concerted conspiracy to block it from the market.

Supported by a group of prominent professors of antitrust law, Evergreen then filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court, arguing that federal courts were divided on the standard governing claims like theirs. V&E appellate partner John Elwood served as counsel of record for the entire group and was principal author of the successful brief in opposition.

The V&E team includes partners William Lawler and John Elwood and associate Ralph Mayrell.

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