889 F.2d 1198 (1st Cir. 1989), 89-1549, New England Anti-Vivisection Soc., Inc. v. United States Surgical Corp., Inc.

Docket Nº:89-1549.
Citation:889 F.2d 1198
Party Name:NEW ENGLAND ANTI-VIVISECTION SOCIETY, INC., Plaintiff, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES SURGICAL CORPORATION, INC., Defendant, Appellee.
Case Date:November 27, 1989
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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Page 1198

889 F.2d 1198 (1st Cir. 1989)

NEW ENGLAND ANTI-VIVISECTION SOCIETY, INC., Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES SURGICAL CORPORATION, INC., Defendant, Appellee.

No. 89-1549.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

November 27, 1989

Heard Oct. 3, 1989.

Rehearing Denied Jan. 16, 1990.

Steven M. Wise, with whom Fraser & Wise, P.C., Boston, Mass., was on brief, for plaintiff, appellant.

Sanford M. Litvack, with whom Dewey, Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer & Wood, Peter B. Ellis, and Foley, Hoag & Eliot, Boston, Mass., were on brief, for defendant, appellee.

Before BOWNES, Circuit Judge, TIMBERS, [*] Senior Circuit Judge, and TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

TIMBERS, Circuit Judge:

In this action to enjoin the holding of an annual meeting because of alleged false

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and misleading statements in a company's proxy materials, appellant, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, Inc. ("NEAVS"), appeals from a judgment entered April 24, 1989, in the District of Massachusetts, Douglas P. Woodlock, District Judge, which dismissed NEAVS' complaint, after a hearing on NEAVS' motion for a preliminary injunction was consolidated, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(2), with a trial on the merits.

NEAVS' complaint alleged that a proxy statement issued by the United States Surgical Corporation ("the Company") contained false and misleading statements regarding a shareholders' resolution, in violation of Section 14(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. Sec. 78n(a) (1988) ("1934 Act") and Rule 14a-9 promulgated thereunder, 17 C.F.R. Sec. 240.14a-9 (1989). The district court after a bench trial entered judgment for the Company, finding nothing false or misleading about the proxy materials and, consequently, no violation of the federal securities laws.

On appeal, NEAVS asserts that we should review the case as though it were an appeal from a summary judgment, rather than from an order under Rule 65(a)(2). It also asserts that the district court applied the wrong legal standard to determine the sufficiency of the Company's statements in its proxy materials under Rule 14a-9 and 15 U.S.C. Sec. 78n(a). It further asserts that the district court erred in refusing to strike the affidavit of Thomas R. Bremer, Vice-President and General Counsel of the Company.

We affirm.

I.

We shall summarize only those facts and prior proceedings believed necessary to an understanding of the issues raised on appeal.

United States Surgical Corporation, a New York corporation with its principal place of business in Norwalk, Connecticut, is engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling medical products, including devices for closing surgical wounds by stapling. From the time it began marketing its stapling products, the Company has used dogs for research purposes and to train physicians in the use of its products.

On November 14, 1988, NEAVS, a Massachusetts charitable corporation with its principal place of business in Boston, and Ms. Priscilla Feral ("Feral") submitted a shareholders' proposal for inclusion in the Company's proxy statement, to be acted upon at its May 2, 1989 annual shareholders meeting. The proposal sought a resolution that the Company should cease using dogs or other animals in its business and sales operations unless required by law. The resolution set forth a five paragraph preamble, which criticized the Company's use of dogs in its business and sales operations. 1

On or about March 13, 1989, the Company mailed its proxy materials for the annual meeting and included the resolution exactly as submitted. The Board of Directors ("the Board") also set forth its objections to the resolution and its recommendation that the shareholders vote against it. At the May 2 annual meeting, more than 97% of the Company's stock voted to reject the proposed resolution.

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NEAVS commenced the instant action on April 12, 1989, and filed a motion for preliminary and permanent injunctions to void all proxies the Company had received and would receive, to correct allegedly false and misleading statements in the proxy materials, and to continue the May 2 annual meeting until after the time a new proxy solicitation had been sent. The amended verified complaint and motion for a preliminary injunction alleged that the proxy statement issued by the Company contained false and misleading statements regarding the proposed resolution. NEAVS challenged the following statements made by the Board as false and misleading:

1. "The preamble of the resolution, which purports to be a factual rationale of the action to be taken, the Company believes is false throughout."

2. "Priscilla Feral for years has attempted by demonstrations, threats and misrepresentations to the media, to prohibit the Company's legal and essential use of live animal tissue (of approximately 1,000 animals per year)."

3. "Only the animal rights activists have attempted to damage the Company's image and reputation, and it is an unsupportable cynicism on their part to urge their own unsuccessful attempts as a basis for approving their proposal."

Specifically, NEAVS claimed that the statement that the preamble was "false throughout" itself was false and misleading because the preamble in fact was true; that the reference to Feral's past attempts to prohibit the Company's use of "live animal tissue" was false and misleading because the statement made it appear that what was at issue was not the use of the whole dog, but only a portion of the dog; and that the statement that "[o]nly the animal rights activists have attempted to damage the Company's image and reputation" was false and misleading because the Company itself, and not animal rights activists, had caused damage to its image and reputation by its use of dogs.

On April 24, 1989, the district court held a hearing on NEAVS' motion for a preliminary injunction. At the outset of the hearing, the court asked counsel whether there was any objection to consolidating, pursuant to Rule 65(a)(2), the hearing on the preliminary injunction motion with a trial on the merits. NEAVS' counsel initially objected. After some discussion with counsel, however, the court announced its intention to consolidate. At that point, NEAVS' counsel did not raise any objection, nor did he request additional time. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court repeated that the motion had been consolidated with the trial on the merits. NEAVS' counsel remained silent, raising no objections to the court's statement.

In...

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