Kavanaugh v. Gorsuch, er, I mean, Apple, Inc. v. Pepper

For the second time this Supreme Court Term, Justice Gorsuch has dissented from a majority opinion by Justice Kavanaugh. Both times, the beneficiary of Kavanaugh's vote has been a plaintiff whose cause of action Kavanaugh would recognize but Gorsuch would not. In today's opinion, Apple, Inc. v. Pepper, the result is that consumers seeking to sue Apple for monopolizing the retail market for iPhone apps can proceed with their suit. (The previous Kavanaugh-Gorsuch split came in a case called Air & Liquid Systems Corp. v. DeVries, in which Kavanaugh's opinion allowed plaintiffs to sue shipbuilders for failing to warn of harms caused by asbestos components that the shipbuilders did not themselves manufacture but knew would be used in the ships.)

The Apple decision concerned whether the so-called "Illinois Brick" rule, which prohibits indirect purchasers from bringing antitrust claims against companies higher up a supply chain with whom they didn't do business directly, bars app purchasers from suing Apple. Apple claimed that app purchase consumers are sorta like indirect purchasers because, according to Apple, app developers and not Apple determine the prices that will be paid for their apps.

Kavanaugh crisply disagreed. ''It is undisputed that the iPhone owners bought the apps directly from Apple. Therefore, under Illinois Brick, the iPhone owners were direct purchasers who may sue Apple for alleged monopolization." There's a bit more to the opinion than that, but that is the gist. Kavanaugh's "straightforward" conclusion was joined by the Court's four liberals, while the remaining conservatives joined Justice Gorsuch.

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