449 U.S. 33 (1980), 71-1895, Allied Chemical Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 71-1895
Citation:449 U.S. 33, 101 S.Ct. 188, 66 L.Ed.2d 193
Party Name:Allied Chemical Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc.
Case Date:November 17, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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449 U.S. 33 (1980)

101 S.Ct. 188, 66 L.Ed.2d 193

Allied Chemical Corp.

v.

Daiflon, Inc.

No. 71-1895

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 17, 1980

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES

COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Held: Where the District Court, because of error in certain of its evidentiary rulings in respondent's private antitrust action, had entered a nonappealable interlocutory order granting a new trial after the jury had returned a verdict for respondent, the Court of Appeals erred in issuing a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to restore the verdict as to liability but permitting a new trial on damages. The remedy of mandamus is a drastic one, to be invoked only in extraordinary situations. The party seeking issuance of the writ must have no other adequate means to obtain the relief he desires, and thus a trial court's ordering of a new trial, which is reviewable on direct appeal after a final judgment has been entered, rarely, if ever, will justify the issuance of the writ. To overturn a new trial order by way of mandamus undermines the policy against piecemeal appellate review.

Certiorari granted; 612 F.2d 1249, reversed.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

Respondent, Daiflon, Inc., is a small importer of refrigerant gas that brought an antitrust suit against all domestic manufacturers of the gas. Petitioner E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. was accused of monopolizing the industry in violation of § 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2. All petitioners were accused of conspiring to drive respondent out of business in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.

After a 4-week trial, the jury returned a verdict for the respondent and awarded $2.5 million in damages. In a subsequent oral order, the trial court denied petitioners' motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, but granted a motion for new trial. The trial court acknowledged in its oral order that it had erred during trial in certain of its evidentiary rulings and that the evidence did not support the amount of the jury award.

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Respondent then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit requesting that it instruct the trial court to reinstate the jury verdict. The Court of Appeals, without a transcript of the trial proceedings before it,1 issued a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to restore the jury verdict as to liability, but permitting the [101 S.Ct. 190] trial court to proceed with a new trial on damages. Daiflon, Inc. v. Bohanon, 612 F.2d 1249. Petitioners seek review of this action of the Court of Appeals by their petition for certiorari with this Court.

An order granting a new trial is interlocutory in nature, and therefore not immediately appealable. The question presented by this petition is therefore whether a litigant may obtain a review of an order concededly not appealable by way of mandamus. If such review were permissible, then the additional question would be presented as to whether the facts in this particular case warrant the issuance of the writ.

It is not disputed that the remedy of mandamus is a drastic one, to be invoked only in extraordinary situations. Will v. United States, 389 U.S. 90, 95 (1967); Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Holland, 346 U.S. 379, 382-385 (1953); Ex parte Fahey, 332 U.S. 258, 259 (1947). On direct appeal from a final decision, a court of appeals has broad authority to "modify, vacate, set aside or reverse" an order of a district court, and it may direct such further action on remand "as may be just under the circumstances." 28 U.S.C. § 2106. By contrast, under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a), courts of appeals may issue a writ of mandamus only when "necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions."

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Although a simple showing of error may suffice to obtain a reversal on direct appeal, to issue a writ of mandamus under such circumstances "would undermine the settled limitations upon the power of an appellate court to review interlocutory orders." Will v. United States, supra at 98, n. 6.

This Court has recognized that the writ of mandamus

has traditionally been used in the federal courts only "to confine an inferior court to a lawful exercise of its prescribed jurisdiction or to compel it to exercise its authority when it is its duty to do so."

Will v. United States, supra at 95, quoting Roche v. Evaporated Milk Assn., 319 U.S. 21, 26 (1943). Only exceptional circumstances, amounting to a judicial usurpation of power, [101 S.Ct. 189] will justify the invocation of this extraordinary remedy. Will v. United States, supra at 95.

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