Amway lawsuit dismissed

The Kansas City Star/February 14, 2008

A federal judge has tossed out a massive antitrust action brought against Amway Corp. by several Missouri distributors just before the case was set to go to trial in Springfield.

U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr granted Amway's motion for summary judgment last week, abruptly ending - at least for now - a case that drew the attention of Amway distributors across the country.

The basis of Dorr's ruling is unknown because it was filed under seal. Dorr, however, plans to unseal it next week unless one of the parties of the lawsuit objects.

An attorney for the plaintiff-distributors said he was stunned by the ruling, which came more than 5½ years after the case was filed and nearly 100 depositions had been taken.

"We were shocked, and of course, greatly disappointed," said Dan Boulware of Shughart Thomson & Kilroy in Kansas City. "It should come as no surprise to you that we disagree with what the judge has done, and we're going to appeal."

Summary judgment is a drastic remedy granted only when the judge finds there is no dispute over the facts of the case and concludes that one of the parties is entitled to judgment.

"We've labored long and hard and feel we had a submissible case," Boulware said. "We're hoping that a year from now we'll be back where we are and looking at getting a new trial date set."

Steve Duthie, a spokesman for Amway's parent company, Alticor Inc. of Ada, Mich., said the company would not comment until Dorr unsealed his order.

Dorr's ruling was particularly surprising because in December 2006 he refused to dismiss the case, instead ruling that the plaintiffs' allegations supported claims of price fixing, conspiracy and other counts.

The suit, which was filed in August 2003 by Amway businesses in St. Joseph and Springfield, alleged that the company exaggerates the profits to be made selling its products and that it pressures distributors into buying its motivational materials. The plaintiffs contended that a handful of "kingpins" - individuals who bought into Amway early on in its history - control thousands of down-line distributors and make most of their money by selling them the motivational materials.

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