239 U.S. 510 (1915), Seven Cases of Eckman's Alterative v. United States

Citation:239 U.S. 510, 36 S.Ct. 190, 60 L.Ed. 411
Party Name:Seven Cases of Eckman's Alterative v. United States
Case Date:January 10, 1916
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 510

239 U.S. 510 (1915)

36 S.Ct. 190, 60 L.Ed. 411

Seven Cases of Eckman's Alterative


United States

United States Supreme Court

January 10, 1916




Congress is not to be denied the exercise of its constitutional authority over interstate commerce and of its power to adopt means necessary and convenient to such exercise merely because those means have the quality of police regulations. Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308.

The Sherley Amendment of August 23, 1912, to the Food & Drugs Act under which misbranding includes false and fraudulent statements regarding curative effects of drugs is within the power of Congress to regulate interstate and foreign commerce.

Such regulation of interstate commerce is within the power of Congress whether the statement be contained in the original package or on the containers of the article. See McDermott v. Wisconsin, 228 U.S. 115.

The legislative history of the Sherley Amendment shows why the word "contain" was inserted therein.

The Sherley Amendment to the Food & Drugs Act does not by reason of uncertainty operate as a deprivation of property without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment, nor does it prevent the laying of definite charge of violating it under the Sixth Amendment, as it in terms requires that the statements, to fall within its prohibition, must be false and fraudulent.

The phrase "false and fraudulent" as used in the Sherley Amendment to the Food & Drugs Act must be taken with its accepted legal meaning, and to condemn under the amendment it must be found that the statements were put with the package with actual intent to deceive.

An intent to deceive may be derived from facts and circumstances, but it must be established, and can be established, by proof of their falsity as to statements accompanying drugs, such as to the effect

Page 511

that they have preventive and curative power over such diseases as pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Averments in a libel under § 8 of the Food & Drugs Act should receive a sensible construction. They must definitely charge the statutory offense of misbranding, but if there is enough to apprise those interested in the goods that they were charged with misbranding because statements as to curative power accompanying the articles in interstate commerce were false and fraudulent, as stating they would cure diseases which they could not cure, and were made with intent to deceive, they are sufficient to sustain the libel.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality, construction and application, of provisions of § 8 of the Food and Drugs Act as amended in 1912 in regard to misbranding of drugs, are stated in the opinion.

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HUGHES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

Libels were filed by the United States, in December, 1912, to condemn certain articles of drugs (known as "Eckman's Alterative") as misbranded in violation of § 8 of the Food & Drugs Act. The articles had been shipped in interstate commerce, from Chicago to Omaha, and remained at the latter place unsold and in the unbroken original packages. The two causes present the same questions, the libels being identical save with respect to quantities and the persons in possession. In each case, demurrers were filed by the shipper, the Eckman Manufacturing Company, which challenged both the sufficiency of the libels under the applicable provision of the statute and the constitutionality of that provision.

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The demurrers were overruled, and, the Eckman Company having elected to stand on the demurrers, judgments of condemnation were entered.

Section 8 of the Food & Drugs Act, as amended by the Act of August 23, 1912, c. 352, 37 Stat. 416, provides, with respect to the misbranding of drugs, as follows:

Sec. 8. That the term "misbranded," as used herein, shall apply to all drugs or articles of food or articles which enter into the composition...

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