Lawlor v. National Screen Service Corporation, No. 163

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWARREN
Citation349 U.S. 322,99 L.Ed. 1122,75 S.Ct. 865
Decision Date06 June 1955
Docket NumberNo. 163
PartiesCharles LAWLOR and Mitchell Pantzer, Co-Partners Trading as Independent Poster Exchange, Petitioners, v. NATIONAL SCREEN SERVICE CORPORATION et al

349 U.S. 322
75 S.Ct. 865
99 L.Ed. 1122
Charles LAWLOR and Mitchell Pantzer, Co-Partners Trading as Independent Poster Exchange, Petitioners,

v.

NATIONAL SCREEN SERVICE CORPORATION et al.

No. 163.
Argued Feb. 9, 10, 1955.
Decided June 6, 1955.

Page 323

Mr. Francis T. Anderson, Philadelphia, Pa., for petitioners.

Mr. Louis Nizer, New York City, for respondent National Screen Service Corp.

Mr. Earl G. Harrison, Philadelphia, Pa., for respondents Columbia Pictures Corp. et al.

Mr. Chief Justice WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an action to recover treble damages for alleged violation of the federal antitrust laws. The only question presented is whether the action is barred, in the circumstances of the case, under the doctrine of res judicata.

Petitioners are engaged in the business of leasing advertising posters to motion picture exhibitors in the Philadelphia area. Such posters, known in the trade as standard accessories, embody copy-righted matter from the motion pictures being advertised. Until recent years, standard accessories could be purchased directly from the motion picture companies themselves. Beginning with Paramount in 1939, however, the eight major producers granted to National Screen Service Corporation the exclusive right to manufacture and distribute various advertis-

Page 324

ing materials, including standard accessories as well as specialty accessories and film trailers, for their motion pictures. RKO followed in 1940, Loew's in 1942, Universal in 1944, Columbia in 1945, United Artists and Warner Brothers in 1946, and 20th Century Fox in 1947.

In 1942, together with a number of others in similar businesses, petitioners commenced a treble-damage anti-trust action against National Screen and the three producers who had already granted exclusive licenses to National Screen. The complaint alleged that the defendants had conspired to establish a monopoly in the distribution of standard accessories by means of the exclusive licenses and that the plaintiffs' businesses had been injured as a consequence. The complaint also alleged that National Screen was then negotiating with the other major producers to procure similar licenses. In addition to damages, an injunction was sought against the defendants' 'illegal acts and practices.'

In 1943, prior to any trial, the suit was settled. The basis of the settlement was an agreement by National Screen to furnish the plaintiffs with all standard accessories distributed by National Screen pursuant to its exclusive license agreements with producers, including exclusive license agreements which might be executed in the future. In exchange, the plaintiffs agreed that they would withdraw the suit and that they would pay National Screen for the materials at specified prices. Pursuant to the settlement, the suit was dismissed 'with prejudice' by court order. No findings of fact or law were made.

The sublicense was to run three years. In 1946 it was renewed for another five-year term. In 1949, while the sublicense was still in force, petitioners brought the instant action, again seeking treble damages and injunctive relief. Named as defendants respondents here—were

Page 325

National Screen, the three producers who were parties to the 1942 suit, and the five producers who licensed National Screen subsequent to the dismissal of the 1942 suit.

In their present complaint, petitioners allege that the settlement of the 1942 suit was merely a device used by the defendants in that case to perpetuate their conspiracy and monopoly. They also allege: that five other producers have joined the conspiracy since 1943; that National Screen has deliberately made slow and erratic deliveries of advertising materials under the sublicense in an effort to destroy petitioners' business; and that for the same purpose National Screen has used tie-in sales and other means of exploiting its monopoly power.1 Petitioners seek damages for resulting injuries suffered from August 16, 1943 in other words, for a period beginning several months after the dismissal of the 1942 complaint.

In 1951, on petitioners' motion for summary judgment, the District Court held that petitioners were entitled to injunctive relief against National Screen because the undisputed facts supported petitioners' claim of unlawful monopoly. 2 As to the producers, however, the District Court held that conflicting evidence on the issue of conspiracy made a trial necessary.3 But in 1953, before any trial was held and before a decree against National Screen could be framed, the defendants moved to dismiss the action on the ground that the 1943 judgment was res judicata. The District Court, another judge then sitting, granted the motion and the Court of Appeals

Page 326

for the Third Circuit affirmed. 4 We granted certiorari because of the importance of the question thus presented in the enforcement of the federal antitrust laws.5

The basic distinction between the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, as those terms are used in this case, has frequently been emphasized. 6 Thus, under the doctrine of res judicata, a judgment 'on the merits' in a prior suit involving the same parties or their privies bars a second suit based on the same cause of action. Under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, on the other hand, such a judgment precludes relitigation of issues actually litigated and determined in the prior suit, regardless of whether it was based on the same cause of action as the second suit. Recognizing this distinction, the court below concluded that 'No question of collateral estoppel by the former judgment is involved because the case was never tried and there was not, therefore, such finding of fact which will preclude the parties to that litigation from questioning the finding thereafter.'7 Turning then to the doctrine of res judicata, the...

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881 practice notes
  • Flavor Corporation of America v. Kemin Industries, Inc., No. 73-1338
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • March 11, 1974
    ...of Internal Revenue v. Sunnen, 333 U.S. 591, 597-598, 68 S.Ct. 715, 92 L.Ed. 898 (1948); Lawlor v. National Screen Service Corp., 349 U.S. 322, 326, 75 S.Ct. 865, 99 L.Ed. 1122 (1955); United States v. Utah Construction Co., 384 U.S. 394, 421-423, 86 S.Ct. 1545, 16 L.Ed.2d 642 4 15 U.S.C. §......
  • Rose Hall, Ltd. v. CHASE MANHATTAN OVERSEAS BANK., Civ. A. No. 79-182.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Delaware)
    • June 27, 1980
    ...new events have occurred as to alter the legal rights and relations of the litigants . . .. In Lawlor v. National Screen Service Corp., 349 U.S. 322, 75 S.Ct. 865, 99 L.Ed. 1122 (1954), the Court, in speaking upon the res judicata effect of a 1943 judgment upon a later action, said at p. 32......
  • United States v. Rangel-Perez, Cr. No. 25568-CD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • December 9, 1959
    ...Brownell v. Chase National Bank, 1956, 352 U.S. 36, 38-39, 77 S.Ct. 116, 1 L.Ed. 2d 99; Lawlor v. National Screen Service Corp., 1955, 349 U.S. 322, 326-327, 75 S.Ct. 865, 99 L.Ed. 1122; Chicot County Drainage Dist. v. Baxter State Bank, 1947, 308 U.S. 371, 375, 60 S.Ct. 317, 84 L.Ed. 329; ......
  • Nelson v. QHG OF SOUTH CAROLINA INC., No. 3626.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 14, 2003
    ...subsequent litigation to the same extent as if the action had been tried to a final adjudication. Lawlor v. Nat'l Screen Serv. Corp., 349 U.S. 322, 75 S.Ct. 865, 99 L.Ed. 1122 (1955); Nunnery v. Brantley Constr. Co., 289 S.C. 205, 345 S.E.2d 740 (Ct.App.1986). When an action has been dismis......
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863 cases
  • Neeld v. National Hockey League, Civ. No. 77-32.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • September 19, 1977
    ...of action different than that on which final judgment was rendered in the prior suit.3 Lawlor v. National Screen Service, 439 F. Supp. 450 349 U.S. 322, 326, 75 S.Ct. 865, 99 L.Ed. 1122 (1955); Herendeen v. Champion Intern. Corp., supra, at 133. The doctrine of res judicata provides that, w......
  • Welsh v. Gerber Products, Inc., No. 19
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1987
    ...effect except where the parties intended that result or the issue was actually litigated. See, e.g., Lawlor v. National Screen Service, 349 U.S. 322, 328, 75 S.Ct. 865, 868, 99 L.Ed. 1122 (1955); U.S. v. International Building Co., 345 U.S. 502, 506, 73 S.Ct. 807, 809, 97 L.Ed. 1182 (1953);......
  • Hebbeler v. First Mariner Bank, Civil Action No. ELH-17-3641
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • March 2, 2020
    ...hand, res judicata does not bar a claim that could not have been brought in the earlier litigation. Lawlor v. Nat'l Screen Serv. Corp., 349 U.S. 322, 328 (1955). The controlling issue is whether the claim existed at the time of the prior suit, not whether plaintiff had actual knowledge of t......
  • J. Aron and Co., Inc. v. Service Transp. Co., Civ. No. HM77-1542
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • May 11, 1981
    ...This doctrine gives effect to an important public policy that there be an end to litigation. See Lawlor v. National Screen Service Corp., 349 U.S. 322, 75 S.Ct. 865, 99 L.Ed. 1122 (1955). The primacy of this policy can perhaps best be appreciated by recalling those cases which have regarded......
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