340 U.S. 211 (1951), 297, Kiefer-Stewart Co. v. Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 297
Citation:340 U.S. 211, 71 S.Ct. 259, 95 L.Ed. 219
Party Name:Kiefer-Stewart Co. v. Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc.
Case Date:January 02, 1951
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 211

340 U.S. 211 (1951)

71 S.Ct. 259, 95 L.Ed. 219

Kiefer-Stewart Co.

v.

Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc.

No. 297

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 2, 1951

Argued December 8, 1950

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. An agreement among competitors in interstate commerce to fix maximum resale prices of their products violates the Sherman Act. P. 213.

2. Under the Sherman Act, a combination formed for the purpose and with the effect of raising, depressing, fixing, pegging, or stabilizing the price of a commodity in interstate or foreign commerce is illegal per se. P. 213.

3. The evidence in this case was sufficient to support a finding by the jury that respondents had conspired to fix maximum resale prices. Pp. 213-214.

4. In an action under the Sherman Act for treble damages, brought by a complainant injured by a conspiracy of sellers of liquor in interstate commerce to fix maximum resale prices, it is no defense that the complainant had conspired with others to fix minimum prices for liquor in violation of the antitrust laws. P. 214.

5. The fact that corporations are under common ownership and control does not relieve them from liability under the antitrust laws, especially where they hold themselves out as competitors. P. 215.

6. Since the District Court's instructions to the jury submitted to them only the cause of action under the Sherman Act, it did not err in refusing a more formal withdrawal of an issue concerning a violation of the Clayton Act, which had been charged in the complaint but which was not proved. P. 215.

182 F.2d 228, reversed.

In an action under the Sherman Act for treble damages, the jury returned a verdict for petitioner, and damages were awarded. The Court of Appeals reversed. 182 F.2d 228. This Court granted certiorari. 340 U.S. 863. Reversed, p. 215.

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BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner, Kiefer-Stewart Company, is an Indiana drug concern which does a wholesale liquor business. Respondents, Seagram and Calvert corporations, are affiliated companies that sell liquor in interstate commerce to Indiana wholesalers. Petitioner brought this action in a federal district court for treble damages under the Sherman Act. 15 U.S.C. §§ 1, 15. The complaint charged that respondents had agreed or conspired to sell liquor only to those Indiana wholesalers who would resell at prices fixed by Seagram and Calvert, and that this agreement deprived petitioner of a continuing supply of liquor, to its great damage. * On the trial, evidence was introduced tending to show that respondents had fixed maximum prices above which the wholesalers could not resell. The jury returned a verdict for petitioner, and damages were awarded. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed. 182 F.2d 228. It held that an agreement among respondents to fix maximum resale prices did not violate the Sherman Act, because such prices promoted, rather than restrained, competition. It also held the evidence insufficient to show that respondents had acted in concert. Doubt as to the correctness

Page 213

of the decision on questions important in antitrust litigation prompted us to grant certiorari. 340 U.S. 863.

The Court of Appeals erred in holding that an agreement among competitors to fix maximum resale prices of their products does not violate the Sherman Act. For such agreements, no less than those to fix minimum prices, cripple the freedom of traders, and thereby restrain their ability to sell in accordance with their own judgment. We reaffirm what we said in United States v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., 310 U.S. 150, 223:

Under the Sherman Act, a combination formed for the purpose and with the effect of raising, depressing,...

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