Thursday, January 31, 2008, 3:33 PM

Antitrust Claim Against Wintergreen Allowed To Proceed

Authored by: Jason Hicks
The Wintergreen Resort is a ski resort and conference center in Nelson County, Virginia (between Lynchburg and Charlottesville). According to the allegations in Plaintiff's complaint, Wintergreen entered into an agreement with Wintergreen Resort Premier Properties (WRPP), a local real estate company, which granted WRPP the exclusive right to operate a real estate office in Wintergreen's Mountain Inn. Plaintiff, a competing real estate company, alleged that this agreement imposed an unreasonable restraint of trade under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

Plaintiff alleged that the exclusive right to operate a sales office within the Mountain Inn gives WRPP an unreasonable advantage over competitors. According to the Court's opinion: "The presumed advantage flows primarily from the location of WRPP in the Mountain Inn. MAR asserts that the majority of buyers of residential properties are also visitors to the resort who are likely to pass by the Mountain Inn and see WRPP's office. Plaintiff argues that WRPP's superior access to these potential "leads" allows them to charge higher commissions than MAR and other competitors."

The Court held that the alleged facts were sufficient to state a claim because Plaintiff alleged relevant product and geographic markets -- real estate services within Wintergreen Resort and Nelson County -- and anticompetitive harm supported evidence of price discrepancies between the two real estate companies and a decline in Plaintiff's market share. The Court concluded: "At this stage of the litigation that is all that is required of Plaintiff."

Some have criticized this ruling, but I will refrain from commenting. This case, however, is of personal interest to me because I grew up in Lynchburg, I met Judge Moon when I was a law clerk in the Western District of Virginia, and I went skiing at Wintergreen when I attended the University of Virginia.

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