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Sabre Wins Appeal Vacating Jury Verdict in Antitrust Suit

On September 11, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of Cravath client Sabre Holdings Corporation (“Sabre”) in an antitrust suit brought by US Airways. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Ohio v. American Express, which Cravath successfully litigated, the Second Circuit vacated a jury verdict against Sabre that had awarded $15 million in damages to US Airways, and remanded for a new trial.

Sabre operates a Global Distribution System (“GDS”) that travel agents use to search for and book airline flights. US Airways alleged that provisions in its contract with Sabre that require airlines to offer all available flights and fares on the Sabre GDS were unreasonable restraints of trade that violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act. At trial the jury found that the relevant market was one‑sided, concluded that Sabre had unreasonably restrained trade in that market, and awarded damages.

Sabre retained Cravath for its appeal. In its ruling for Sabre, the Second Circuit explained: “The jury’s primary verdict was based on its finding that the relevant market was one‑sided. In light of the subsequent Supreme Court opinion in Amex II, that conclusion was erroneous because the Sabre GDS is a transaction platform, and the relevant market for such a platform must as a matter of law include both sides.”

The Cravath team included partners Evan R. Chesler, Peter T. Barbur, Kevin J. Orsini and Rory A. Leraris, and associates Lauren M. Rosenberg, David H. Korn, Allison C. Davido, Charles E. Loeser and Garrett M. Biedermann.