Chief Justice Marsha K. Ternus
DES MOINES -- An Iowa class action lawsuit against the two credit card giants can't stand up because the plaintiffs' injuries are too "remote," the state's Supreme Court ruled today. In Jeff Southard, et. al. v. Visa USA Inc. and MasterCard International Inc. (docket# 137 / 04-1972), handed down this morning, the Supreme Court agreed with the District Court to grant the defendants' motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs filed a suit against Visa and MasterCard in September 2003, alleging they violated Iowa's competition law and "seeking relief against unjust enrichment." Defendants filed for dismissal on the basis that plaintiffs "[can] not recover for derivative or remote injuries." The opinion, authored by Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, agreed with Judge Darrell J. Goodhue of the Dallas County District Court on that key issue. It hinged on the interpretation of an Iowa Supreme Court opinion in a 2002 lawsuit againt Microsoft. "Iowa's competition law does not provide a remedy to every person who can trace an injury to a defendant's anticompetitive conduct," Ternus wrote in today's decision. "The plaintiff consumers' injuries are remote, and therefore, the plaintiffs lack antitrust standing." "Moreover, the plaintiffs are not indirect purchasers of the defendants' services; they are nonpurchasers. Consequently, they cannot benefit from our [ruling in the Microsoft suit] to allow indirect purchasers to bring suit under Iowa's competition law." The Supreme Court also ruled that "the plaintiffs cannot recover under a theory of unjust enrichment because their injuries are too remote," she added.