Tenth Circuit Rules That Title Insurers Did Not Violate Antitrust Laws Even If They Allegedly Conspired to Bribe the State Superintendent of Insurance

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On April 26, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed, on the basis of the filed rate doctrine and other grounds, a lower court’s decision to dismiss putative class claims asserted against Insurer Defendants1 for allegedly conspiring with the New Mexico Insurance Superintendent to establish an unreasonably high premium rate. In New Mexico, all title insurers use the same policy form and charge the same premium rate, both of which are approved by the Insurance Superintendent. Plaintiffs claim title insurers bribed the Insurance Superintendent to approve an excessive premium rate. Because this case was decided on a motion to dismiss, the allegations in the complaint were presumed to be true, even though there was no known basis for such bribery allegations.

Plaintiffs in Coll v. First American Title Insurance Co., 08-2174, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 8486 (10th Cir. Apr. 26, 2011), alleged that the New Mexico Title Insurance Act violated numerous state constitutional and statutory provisions precluding price fixing because it purportedly authorized defendants to engage in anticompetitive price fixing.2 Plaintiffs alleged the following five causes of action against both Insurer Defendants and State Defendants: (1) violations of the New Mexico Antitrust Act; (2) violations of the New Mexico Unfair Insurance Practices Act; (3) violations of the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act; (4) violations of the New Mexico Price Discrimination Act; and (5) violations of the New Mexico state constitution. Plaintiffs sought both monetary damages and declaratory relief. On April 21, 2008, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico granted Insurer Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. However, the district court remanded Plaintiffs’ claims against the State Defendants to the state court. Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s dismissal of their claims against Insurer Defendants. In its April 26 Order, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss all claims against Insurer Defendants. (Please click here for the opinion.)

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Published In: Administrative Agency Updates, Antitrust & Trade Regulation Updates, Business Torts Updates, Constitutional Law Updates, Insurance Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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