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The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently reversed a district court antitrust verdict arising from a university's first-year housing requirements. Denver Partner Michael Hofmann argued the case in the district court and assisted with the appellate briefing. With this ruling, the Tenth Circuit aligned its ruling with the majority of the federal circuit courts that have considered the elements of a conspiracy to monopolize claim.

The defendant, Campus Village Apartments LLC, is a nonprofit organized for the benefit of the University of Colorado. At the University of Colorado-Denver’s request, Campus Village built modern housing for the students on the Auraria campus. Traditionally, CU Denver had not been able to provide student housing, which it believed would increase its out-of-state enrollment and retention of first-year students. To serve those purposes, CU Denver adopted a requirement that most freshman students reside at Campus Village, and the requirement was incorporated into agreements between CU Denver and Campus Village.

The plaintiff, Auraria Student Housing at the Regency (ASHR), operates student housing approximately two miles from the university’s campus. ASHR sued Campus Village in 2010, alleging that Campus Village and the university “conspired to monopolize” renting housing to the university’s first-year students in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. The case proceeded to trial and the jury returned a $3.3 million verdict against Campus Village.

On appeal, the Tenth Circuit reversed the verdict and determined that a plaintiff who brings a conspiracy to monopolize claim bears the burden of identifying the legally relevant market that the conspiracy affects. In making this decision, the court departed from an earlier Tenth Circuit decision that had relieved plaintiffs of this burden, relying instead on subsequent decisions from the United States Supreme Court addressing the relevant market requirement. The Tenth Circuit also clarified what types of markets are legally relevant and determined that arrangements in which the only affected consumers are defined by contract between the defendant and the consumers do not create a relevant market. Because the Tenth Circuit departed from its previous holding, it vacated the jury verdict and remanded the case for further proceedings under the correct legal standards.

The case is Auraria Student Housing at the Regency, LLC v. Campus Village Apartments, LLC, -- F.3d --, 2016 WL 7260600 (10th Cir. December 15, 2016).

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This document provides a general summary and is for information/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, nor does it constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought before taking or refraining from taking any action.