DUNCAN, Circuit Judge.
After the Virginia Board of Medicine ("the Board") sanctioned Yvoune Petrie, a Virginia chiropractor, for various violations of the Virginia statutes and regulations governing the practice of chiropractic, Petrie sued the Board, its executive director, and five of its members, claiming that the Board's action against her violated section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1. Because Petrie has failed to show that the Board's sanctioning her had any anti-competitive effects, we affirm the district court's order granting the Board's motion for summary judgment.
The Board is a regulatory body established by the Virginia General Assembly to oversee the practice of medicine, osteopathic medicine, chiropractic, and podiatry in Virginia. It consists of eighteen members, including "one medical physician from each congressional district, one osteopathic physician, one podiatrist, one chiropractor, and four citizen members." Va. Code § 54.1-2911. Among other powers and responsibilities, the General Assembly has delegated to the Board the authority, upon finding that an individual has violated one of the various Virginia laws governing the professions within the Board's purview, to "impose a monetary penalty or terms as it may designate" and to "suspend any license for a stated period of time or indefinitely." Va. Code § 54.1-2915(A).
Petrie's chiropractic practice came to the Board's attention after several of her patients filed complaints alleging, among other things, that Petrie was "passing herself off as a diabetes and thyroid specialist," S.A. 153, and that she falsely held herself out as a medical doctor in order "to mislead [a patient] into believing that she [was] a medical professional" who could "administer a medical `Fat Burning Procedure,'" S.A. 158.
On February 28, 2013, the Board issued an order finding that Petrie had violated several of Virginia's statutes and regulations governing the practice of chiropractic. Essentially, the Board found that Petrie had been misleading her patients and practicing beyond the scope of her chiropractic license by holding herself out as a diet and nutrition counselor, by suggesting to patients that she could "reverse" their Type II diabetes or erectile dysfunction, and by performing a "non-invasive dermatological aesthetic treatment" which she advertised as "[l]iposuction without surgery" using a laser. J.A. 438-41. The Board sanctioned Petrie for those violations by suspending her license for six months and imposing a $25,000 fine.
Petrie appealed the Board's order to the Circuit Court of Fairfax County, Virginia. On September 12, 2013, that court dismissed Petrie's appeal with prejudice upon finding "that the Board did not act arbitrarily or capriciously, that a reasonable mind would not necessarily reach a different conclusion, and that there is a wealth of facts contained in the administrative record to support the Board's findings." S.A. 192. Petrie then appealed again, to the Virginia Court of Appeals, which affirmed the dismissal of Petrie's appeal.
While her appeal was pending in the Virginia Court of Appeals, Petrie initiated another effort to overturn the Board's order against her by filing this action in federal district court. In her federal complaint, Petrie alleges that the Board's order reflects a conspiracy to exclude chiropractors from certain markets for medical services, in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Act.
Petrie seeks treble damages under section 4 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 15, and injunctive relief under section 16 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 26. The Board moved for summary judgment, and on December 1, 2014, the district court granted the Board's motion and dismissed Petrie's complaint. Petrie appealed.
This court "review[s] de novo an award of summary judgment, viewing all facts and drawing all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party."
"The party moving for summary judgment `discharges its burden by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'"
Below, we first set out the basic analytical framework for an antitrust claim under section 1 of the Sherman Act and explain how the district court applied that framework to conclude that the Board was entitled to summary judgment. Then, we review the district court's analysis, and ultimately affirm.
Section 1 of the Sherman Act prohibits "[e]very contract, combination . . ., or conspiracy, in restraint of trade." 15 U.S.C. § 1. This court has interpreted that language to mean that, "[t]o establish a § 1 antitrust violation, a plaintiff must prove `(1) a contract, combination, or conspiracy; (2) that imposed an unreasonable restraint of trade.'"
Here, the district court held that Petrie has met none of those three requirements. It held that Petrie has not shown an unreasonable restraint on trade because she "has shown no anticompetitive effects on the relevant market," and certainly none that could outweigh "the procompetitive benefits of the Board's actions." J.A. 619-20. It held that Petrie has not shown a "contract, combination, or conspiracy" because she "failed to establish that the action by the Board and its members to sanction her constituted a conscious commitment to a common scheme by competitors to restrain trade." J.A. 622. And it held that Petrie "has failed to show the antitrust injury necessary to bring this complaint."
We address first whether the Board's order against Petrie constitutes an "unreasonable restraint of trade." To determine whether a particular agreement in restraint of trade is unreasonable, "the Supreme Court has authorized three methods of analysis: (1) per se analysis, for obviously anticompetitive restraints, (2) quick-look analysis, for those with some procompetitive justification, and (3) the full `rule of reason,' for restraints whose net impact on competition is particularly difficult to determine."
"In all cases, however, the criterion to be used in judging the validity of a restraint on trade is its impact on competition."
The district court found that the Rule of Reason analysis was the appropriate mode to apply in this case. We agree. It is clear that the Board's order against Petrie injured Petrie herself, but "a plaintiff cannot demonstrate the unreasonableness of a restraint merely by showing that it caused him an economic injury."
Petrie, however, has been unable to present any specific evidence that the Board's order against her has had the broader effects she posits. The record is completely devoid of evidence that any other Virginia chiropractor has sought to provide laser fat removal services or the other services the Board sanctioned Petrie for providing, or that any other Virginia chiropractor was providing those services and ceased doing so after the Board sanctioned Petrie.
Because Petrie's failure to prove that the Board's order against her constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade is an independently sufficient basis to grant summary judgment against her, we need not address whether Petrie has proven that the Board engaged in a "contract, combination, or conspiracy," or whether Petrie has suffered the sort of "antitrust injury" that confers standing upon a private individual to sue for a violation of the Sherman Act. Unlike the injury requirement associated with Article III standing, which is a jurisdictional prerequisite to reaching the merits of any claim, the "antitrust injury" requirement need not be addressed before a court can decide whether a plaintiff has proven a valid claim under section 1 of the Sherman Act. Indeed, "[w]hen a court concludes that no [antitrust] violation has occurred, it has no occasion to consider standing."
For the reasons stated above, we affirm the district court's order granting summary judgment to the Board and the individual defendants.