Jon Campisi May 7, 2013, 8:27am


One Philadelphia personal injury law firm is suing another that specializes in the same

tort over allegations of unfair competition.

Larry Pitt & Associates filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia on May 2 against Lundy Law LLP, and its principal, Leonard Lundy, over claims that the defendants have violated the Sherman Antitrust Act in attempting to monopolize the local market for advertising personal injury legal services.

The lawsuit claims that the defendants’ “predatory conduct has included entering into exclusive and restrictive contracts for legal advertising with co-conspiring outlets that prevent the essential advertisement of legal services by Plaintiff Pitt Law and others in premium and highly coveted media outlets in the Greater Philadelphia area.”

Both litigation firms, the suit states, compete for the same advertising in connection with their services, specifically in the identical area of personal injury claims.

The Greater Philadelphia region, in this case, refers to the City of Philadelphia, as well as neighboring Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Bucks and Berks Counties.

The crux of the allegations against Lundy Law is that the defendant is attempting to monopolize legal advertising on outlets such as public transportation, radio, television, billboards, and in and around sporting events and concert venues.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, which is the area’s largest mass transit organization, is singled out as a particularly sought-out platform for the advertising of legal services.

The lawsuit says that advertising on the exterior of buses is one of the most “effective forms of advertising for legal services for small personal injury, social security disability and workers’ compensation law firms to use in order to achieve name recognition.

“Buses serve as unique moving billboards, enabling maximum viewership or demographics for the advertisement.”

SEPTA, the complaint asserts, has buses running on 170 routes throughout the Greater Philadelphia region, with result being what the suit calls premium advertising space that is “essential for such law firms to effectively compete in the relevant market.”

The plaintiff in this case says it has historically advertised its legal services with BARTA, the Berks Area Regional Transportation, a bus and shuttle service in Berks County, which primarily serves commuters in the City of Reading.

Larry Pitt & Associates has also advertised on local radio and TV spots, as well as on roadside billboards.

During at least the past year, the plaintiff claims, Lundy Law has commenced a “predatory advertising campaign” of entering into exclusive advertising contracts with the likes of SEPTA and BARTA for the exterior of mass transit buses and at sports and concert venues, which prevents “any and all other legal service providers,” including the plaintiff, from advertising in these outlets “or using that method of media entirely.”

“On information and belief, Lundy’s exclusive advertising contracts are for a period of at least one year, with automatic, unlimited renewal for additional one year periods,” the lawsuit states. “Because there is no limit on the renewal provision, Lundy’s exclusive advertising contracts have the potential to exist for eternity.”

The complaint says that Larry Pitt tried to renew its own advertising contracts with the various outlets, but was foreclosed as a result of Lundy’s alleged anticompetitive conduct.

The suit says that L. Leonard Lundy has been personally involved in negotiating the exclusive advertising contracts in question and authorized their execution on behalf of his firm.

“For at least the past year, Defendant Lundy has engaged in a predatory campaign to eliminate competition from Pitt Law and other small personal injury, social security disability and workers’ compensation law firms and to harm Pitt Law as a direct competitor,” the suit reads. “As L. Leonard Lundy has publicly vowed, ‘I believe that, at the end of the day, the dominant brands will succeed.’”

The complaint further alleges that Lundy, in conspiracy with others, has engaged in other forms of predatory conduct to eliminate competition, including threatening and filing litigation “with no good-faith basis in law and fact against Pitt Law for anticompetitive purposes.”

An example given was the January cease and desist letter send by Lundy to Pitt stating that Pitt’s use of the advertising phrase “Remember This Number” infringed on a trademark allegedly owned by Lundy on the phrase “Remember This Name.”

Lundy followed up with a suit over the issue three months later, although the civil action was later voluntarily dismissed by Lundy “without explanation or any advance notice,” the suit states.

The latest lawsuit claims that Pitt Law has been damaged by Lundy’s actions through lost sales and profits, higher costs and loss of goodwill and name recognition in the relevant markets.

The suit contains counts of unlawful monopolization, attempted monopolization, unlawful boycott, unlawful exclusive dealing, unfair competition, and tortious interference with prospective contract.

The plaintiff seeks to have the court declare that the defendant’s actions violate the Sherman Antitrust Act and that they have engaged in unfair competition.

Larry Pitt also demands unspecified monetary damages, litigation costs, attorneys’ fees and punitive and exemplary damages.

The suit was filed by DLA Piper attorneys Carl W. Hittinger and Lesli C. Esposito.

 

The federal case number is 2:13-cv-02398-CMR.

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