494 U.S. 827, Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation v. Bonjorno

Citation:494 U.S. 827, 110 S.Ct. 1570, 108 L.Ed.2d 842, 58 U.S.L.W. 4421
Party Name:Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation v. Bonjorno
Case Date:April 17, 1990
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 827

494 U.S. 827

110 S.Ct. 1570, 108 L.Ed.2d 842, 58 U.S.L.W. 4421

Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation

v.

Bonjorno

United States Supreme Court

April 17, 1990

CERTIORARI TO THE UDNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondents (Bonjorno), the sole stockholders of a now defunct aluminum pipe fabrication company, brought suit against petitioners (Kaiser) in the District Court, alleging that Kaiser had monopolized the market for such pipe in violation of the Sherman Act. Judgment for Bonjorno on a jury verdict and damages award was entered on August 22, 1979. However, the District Court found that this judgment was not supported by the evidence, and held a limited retrial on the issue of damages, which resulted in a jury award of $9,567,939 on December 2, 1981. After judgment was entered on December 4, 1981, the District Court granted a partial judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Court of Appeals, inter alia, vacated the latter judgment and reinstated and affirmed the December 4 judgment, issuing its mandate in 1986. The postjudgment interest statute in effect when Bonjorno's complaint was in filed provided that "interest shall be calculated from the date of the entry of judgment, at the rate allowed by State law." 28 U.S.C. § 1961 (1976 ed.). In 1982, while the appeal was pending, an amended § 1961 went into effect, which specified that "interest shall be calculated from the date of the entry of the judgment, at a rate" based on the price for United States Treasury bills settled "immediately prior to the date of judgment." 28 U.S.C. § 1961 (1982 ed.). The District Court held that § 1961 required interest to be calculated from December 2, 1981, the date of the damages verdict. However, it rejected Bonjorno's argument that Bradley v. Richmond School Bd., 416 U.S. 696 -- which held that courts are to apply the law in effect at the time of decision except where retrospective application would result in manifest injustice to one of the parties or where there is clear congressional intent to the contrary -- required that the amended version of the statute be applied to determine the applicable interest rate. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's determination of the date from which interest should be calculated, but reversed on the issue of which version of § 1961 applied.

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Held:

1. Postjudgment interest properly runs from the date of the entry of judgment, not the date of the verdict. Both versions of § 1961 refer specifically to the "date of judgment," which indicates a date certain, and there is no legislative history that would indicate a contrary congressional intent. Pp. 834-835.

2. Interest should be calculated from December 4, 1981, rather than August 22, 1979, the date of the District Court's legally insufficient judgment. The purpose of postjudgment interest is to compensate the successful plaintiff for being deprived of compensation for the loss from the time between the ascertainment of the damage and the payment by the defendant. It would be counterintuitive to believe that Congress intended interest to be calculated from a judgment on damages that was not supported by the evidence, since such damages have not been "ascertained" in any meaningful way. Pp. 835-836.

3. Amended § 1961 is not applicable to judgments entered before its effective date. The plain language of both versions of § 1961 evidences clear congressional intent that the interest rate for any particular judgment is to be determined as of the date of the judgment, and that a single applicable rate of interest is to be applied to the judgment for the duration of the interest accrual period. In addition, Congress delayed the effective date of the amended version by six months to permit courts and attorneys to prepare for the change in the law, and, therefore, at the very least, the amended version cannot be applied before its effective date. Implicit in the amended provision's legislative history -- which indicates that Congress wished to lessen the incentives of losing defendants to take frivolous appeals in order to collect interest at the prevailing market rates while paying plaintiffs at the lower state-set rates -- is the understanding that, on the date of judgment, expectations with respect to liability would be fixed so that the parties could make informed decisions about the cost and potential benefits of paying the judgment or seeking appeal. This Court need not reconcile the apparent tension between the two lines of precedent governing retrospective application that are represented by Bradley v. Richmond School Bd., supra, and Bowen v. Georgetown University Hospital, 488 U.S. 204, which held that congressional enactments will not be construed to have retroactive effect unless their language requires this result. Under either view, where the congressional intent is clear, it governs. Pp. 836-840.

4. The equities of the case do not require that the rate of interest be set at a rate higher than that afforded by § 1961. Where Congress has not seen fit to provide for a higher interest rate with respect to antitrust

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suits and has set a definite applicable rate, the courts may not legislate to the contrary. P. 840.

865 F.2d 566, (C.A.3 1989), affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and STEVENS, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring [110 S.Ct. 1573] opinion, post, p. 830. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 858.

O'CONNOR, J., lead opinion

Justice O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are called upon in these cases to decide the applicable rate of postjudgment interest and the date from which postjudgment interest should be calculated pursuant to the federal postjudgment interest statute. 28 U.S.C. § 1961 (1982 ed.) (amended).

I

Respondents (Bonjorno) were the sole stockholders of now defunct Columbia Metal Culvert Co., Inc., which was at one time a fabricator of aluminum drainage pipe in Vineland, New Jersey. Bonjorno brought suit against petitioners (Kaiser) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on the theory that Kaiser had monopolized the market for aluminum drainage pipe in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States in violation of the Sherman Act. 26 Stat. 209, as amended, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2 (1988).

At the first trial, the District Court entered a directed verdict for Kaiser. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed, holding that there was sufficient evidence for the case to go to the jury. Columbia Metal Culvert Co. v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp., 579 F.2d 20, 37 (1978).

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On August 21, 1979, a second trial resulted in a jury verdict in respondents' favor in the trebled amount of $5,445,000. The judgment was entered on August 22, 1979. The District Court held that the evidence did not support the jury's damages award and granted petitioners' motion for a new trial as to damages only. 518 F.Supp. 102, 109, 119 (ED Pa.1981). A limited retrial on damages resulted in a jury award on December 2, 1981, in the trebled amount of $9,567,939. Judgment was entered on December 4, 1981. On January 17, 1983, the District Court granted Kaiser's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict as to a portion of the damages awarded by the jury. 559 F.Supp. 922 (ED Pa.1983). Bonjorno appealed the reduction in damages, and the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's partial grant of petitioners' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict as to damages, vacated the judgment, and reinstated and affirmed the judgment entered on December 4, 1981. 752 F.2d 802, 815 (CA3 1984). Kaiser's petition for rehearing in banc was denied, as was its subsequent petition for certiorari to this Court. 477 U.S. 908 (1986).

The Court of Appeals did not refer in its opinion to the allowance of postjudgment interest; Bonjorno petitioned the Court of Appeals for instructions regarding interest to be included in the mandate pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 37, which permits courts of appeal to direct payment of interest commencing with the entry of judgment in the district court unless otherwise provided by law. Before the Court of Appeals could rule on the petition, the parties entered into a stipulation providing that the District Court first address all issues of interest allowable under 28 U.S.C. § 1961 and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 37. The Court of Appeals approved the stipulation and certified the

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judgment in lieu of a formal mandate. On July 1, 1986, the mandate of the Court of Appeals, stayed pending disposition of Kaiser's petition for a writ of certiorari with this Court, was issued to the District Court. On July 3, 1986, Kaiser paid Bonjorno $9,567,939, the trebled amount of damages awarded by the jury on December 2, 1981.

The federal statute governing awards of postjudgment interest in effect at the time Bonjorno filed the complaint on January 17, 1974, and until October 1, 1982, provided:

[110 S.Ct. 1574]

Interest shall be allowed on any money judgment in a civil case recovered in a district court. Execution therefor may be levied by the marshal, in any case where, by the law of the State in which such court is held, execution may be levied from interest on judgments recovered in the courts of the State. Such interest shall be calculated from the date of the entry of judgment, at the rate allowed by State law.

28 U.S.C. § 1961 (1976 ed.).

On April 2, 1982, Congress passed the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982, Pub.L. 97-164, 96 Stat. 25, § 302 of which amended 28 U.S.C. § 1961...

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