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Kansas v. UtiliCorp United, Inc.

497 U.S. 199 (1990)

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Kansas v. UtiliCorp United, Inc.

United States Supreme Court

497 U.S. 199 (1990)

Facts

Investor-owned public utility UtiliCorp United, Inc. (UtiliCorp) bought natural gas to resell to consumers in Kansas and Missouri (plaintiffs). UtiliCorp, another utility, and other gas purchasers (plaintiffs) sued the pipeline company and five natural-gas producers (defendants), alleging they conspired to inflate gas prices in violation of antitrust laws. Acting as parens patriae for their residents, Kansas and Missouri initiated separate antitrust actions against the same pipeline and producers. Kansas and Missouri also asserted claims on behalf of state agencies, municipalities, and other political subdivisions that purchased gas. After the district court consolidated the actions, the pipeline and producers asserted the utilities lacked standing under § 4 of the Clayton Act because they passed the inflated costs on to consumers such that the utilities suffered no antitrust injury. The court reasoned that the indirect-purchaser doctrine applied to treat direct purchasers from price fixers as suffering injury to the full extent of the overcharge, even if customers paid some or all of the overcharge as indirect purchasers. Because the utilities but not their customers had suffered antitrust injuries, the court dismissed the states’ claims, but allowed an interlocutory appeal as to whether they could bring parens patriae claims under the circumstances. After the appellate court affirmed, the Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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