BRIDGEPORT HARBOUR PLACE I, LLC v. JOSEPH P. GANIM et al., SC 18290

Judicial District of Waterbury

 

      Antitrust; Whether Plaintiff Pleaded Legally Sufficient Claim of Violation of Connecticut Antitrust Act, General Statutes § 35-24 et seq.; Whether Plaintiff Alleged Facts that Would Establish an Actual Adverse Effect on Competition as a Whole in the Relevant Market. The plaintiff brought this action, claiming that the defendants violated the Connecticut Antitrust Act, General Statutes § 35-24 et seq., by engaging in an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade.  Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that then Bridgeport mayor Joseph P. Ganim engaged in a contract steering scheme in which his coconspirators demanded bribes and kickbacks from businesses seeking city contracts and then divided the proceeds of those illegal payments with Ganim.  When, after entering into a contract with the city of Bridgeport for the development of a section of waterfront property, the plaintiff refused to participate in the scheme, Ganim and the other defendants allegedly conspired to deprive the plaintiff of its development rights for their own benefit through corrupt and illegal means.  Because of the defendants' purported behavior, the plaintiff claimed that its three financial partners withdrew from the project, that it was unable to meet its contractual obligations and that the defendants' conduct had an adverse effect on competition as a whole in the commercial development market in the city.  Finding that the plaintiff failed to state a legally sufficient antitrust claim, the trial court granted the defendants' motions to strike the complaint.  The Appellate Court affirmed (111 Conn. App. 197), noting that while the facts the plaintiff alleged could establish that the plaintiff lost its ability to develop a single property, the plaintiff failed to allege any facts of a specific nature that would support the legal conclusion that the defendants' conduct had an adverse effect on competition in the relevant market.  The court explained that the plaintiff had not alleged how the challenged actions decreased competition among developers or how the alleged payback scheme actually affected the marketplace, which allegations are necessary to support a violation of the antitrust act.  The court further explained that although the plaintiff was not required to plead evidence to demonstrate the anticompetitive effect of the defendants' conduct, it was required to plead something more than legal conclusions and the formulaic recitation of the elements of an antitrust cause of action.  In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's granting of the defendants' motions to strike.