State v. Jonathan Logan, Inc., 129

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Citation301 Md. 63,482 A.2d 1
Docket NumberNo. 129,129
Parties, 1984-2 Trade Cases P 66,223 STATE of Maryland v. JONATHAN LOGAN, INC. ,
Decision Date01 September 1983

Robert W. Hesselbacher, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore (Stephen H. Sachs, Atty. Gen. and Charles O. Monk, II, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore, on brief), for appellant.

Allan M. Pepper, New York City (Mark Landau and Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler, New York City, and Peter H. Gunst and Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman, Baltimore, on brief), for appellee.

Argued before SMITH, ELDRIDGE, COLE, DAVIDSON, * RODOWSKY and COUCH, JJ., and CHARLES E. ORTH, Jr., Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals (Retired), Specially Assigned.

RODOWSKY, Judge.

The construction of § 11-209(a) of the Maryland Antitrust Act, Md.Code (1975, 1983 Repl. Vol.), §§ 11-201 to 11-213 of the Commercial Law Article (the Md.Act) is the principal question presented in this case. 1 The State of Maryland, acting through the Antitrust Division of the Attorney General's Office and alleging a resale price maintenance conspiracy in raincoats, brought this action under § 11-209(a). The State contends that the section authorizes an equity court to order the alleged price fixer to pay to the State for the benefit of retail purchasers the difference between the price they paid for the raincoats as affected by the conspiracy and the price which they would have paid but for the price fixing. The trial court held, on demurrer, that § 11-209(a) does not permit recovery of that monetary relief. In Part I hereof we shall explain why we agree with the trial court on that issue. That court also held that the State had failed to state a claim for injunctive relief. In Part II we set forth the reasons for our concurrence in that conclusion.

On March 2, 1981, the State, expressly suing only in its sovereign capacity, filed this action against Jonathan Logan, Inc., (Logan) in the Eighth Judicial Circuit. The complaint described Logan as one of the nation's largest manufacturers of apparel goods which through its Misty Harbor Division sells rainwear to resellers in Maryland and elsewhere throughout the United States. It was alleged that, from "a time prior to 1972 and continuing thereafter at least until April, 1977," Logan had engaged in a combination or conspiracy in unreasonable restraint of trade "to fix, raise and maintain resale prices of [its] rainwear," and that, unless enjoined, the unlawful combination would "continue or be renewed ...."

Prayer B of the complaint asked the court to

[r]emove the effect of the violation complained of herein by compelling defendant, pursuant to Md.Com.Law Code Ann. § 11-209(a)(2)(i), to disgorge its ill gotten gains, making full restitution to the consumers of Jonathan Logan's rainwear in the State of Maryland, in an amount as yet undetermined, such amount representing the price paid by those consumers in excess of that which would have been paid but for the aforementioned contract, combination or conspiracy.

Logan demurred on two grounds: (1) section 11-209(a) does not empower the State to recover monetary awards for consumers, and (2) the complaint failed to state a claim for injunctive relief. As to the latter point Logan relied, in part, on a 1979 Federal Trade Commission cease and desist order, the terms of which were broad enough to enjoin Logan from the same conduct alleged by the State in the instant action. 2

The circuit court sustained Logan's demurrer but did not prohibit further amendment of the claim for injunctive relief. The State, however, declined further to amend and, in order to eliminate any question concerning appealability of the judgment to be entered, voluntarily dismissed as to all relief other than (1) that sought in prayer B and (2) an appropriate injunction. Thereupon, the trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. From that order the State appealed. We granted the State's petition for certiorari prior to consideration of the case by the Court of Special Appeals.

Section 11-209(a) provides for an enforcement action. It reads:

(a) Proceedings by Attorney General. --(1) The Attorney General shall institute proceedings in equity to prevent or restrain violations of § 11-204 and may require assistance from any State's attorney for that purpose.

(2) In a proceeding under this section, the court shall determine whether a violation has been committed and enter any judgment or decree necessary to:

(i) Remove the effects of any violation it finds; and

(ii) Prevent continuation or renewal of the violation in the future.

(3) The court may exercise all equitable powers necessary for this purpose, including injunction, divestiture of property or business units, and suspension or termination of the right of a foreign corporation or association to do business in the State.

An analogous civil enforcement provision under the federal antitrust laws is found in the Sherman Act § 4, 15 U.S.C. § 4 (1982), although the degree of analogy is disputed by the parties to this case. 3 In addition to civil enforcement proceedings brought by the Attorney General, actions for treble damages, for injunctive relief, or for both are authorized under the Md. Act by § 11-209(b). Under § 11-209(b)(2)(i) these "private" actions may be brought by "[a] person whose business or property has been injured or threatened with injury by a violation of § 11-204" of the Md. Act, and, by virtue of § 11-209(b)(1), the State, when injured in its business or property, "is a person having standing to bring an action under" § 11-209(b). 4 The comparison in federal statutes for private actions is to the Clayton Act § 4, 15 U.S.C. § 15 (1982). 5

Under the State's theory the prayer B type of relief is available in an enforcement action brought in equity by the Attorney General. The State labels the requested award of consumers' excess payments as "restitution." Utilization of this "equitable" remedy, says the State, will "[r]emove the effects" of the retail price maintenance combination and, by its deterrent effect, also "[p]revent continuation or renewal of the violation in the future," all as authorized by § 11-209(a)(2)(i) and (ii).

Logan's position is that there can be no monetary award for the benefit of consumers in an enforcement action under § 11-209(a). It points out that a consumer who suffers a loss by way of overpayment resulting from the alleged violation of the Md. Act can recover that loss, trebled, under § 11-209(b), but that a § 11-209(b) action differs from an enforcement action under § 11-209(a). Logan emphasizes that, under the antitrust laws of the United States, courts have uniformly rejected claims brought by states attempting to use a parens patriae theory to collect damages on behalf of consumers. The rationale of those federal cases, Logan urges, should be applied to an action predicated on § 11- 209(a) and result in dismissal of the complaint.

Before we analyze the arguments in detail, three general observations will bring the issue more sharply into focus. First, it is not necessary for us to decide the highly theoretical question of whether the relief claimed by the State in its prayer B is a form of restitution. See generally D. Dobbs, Handbook on the Law of Remedies 222-229 (1973). In consumer price-fixing cases the amount of the overcharge is usually the measure of actual damages. See, e.g., In re Mid-Atlantic Toyota Antitrust Litigation, 560 F.Supp. 760, 785 (D.Md.1983); Desiderio, Private Treble Damage Antitrust Actions: An Outline of Fundamental Principles, 48 Brooklyn L.Rev. 409 (1982); Annot., 16 A.L.R.Fed. 14 (1973 & Supp.1983). Here, the prayer B relief which the State says represents the unjust enrichment of Logan coincides with actual damages to consumers. It is immaterial whether that measure of damage, appropriate in a consumer's suit under § 11-209(b), can also be viewed, vis-a-vis the alleged price fixer, as having a restitutionary underpinning. The real question in this case is whether the State is authorized at all by § 11-209(a) to obtain a decree against an alleged price fixer for a sum measured by the excess paid by consumers.

Second, the State does not rely in this case on a class action theory. There is no allegation that the State purchased any raincoat the price of which was affected by the alleged conspiracy. The State does not claim standing on that basis to act as representative of a class of purchasers. The State's theory is that, as sovereign, it may represent persons who are entitled to receive money from Logan, without the formal joining of those persons as parties plaintiff. As discussed below courts which have faced similar contentions look to principles dealing with the concept of "parens patriae."

Third, we shall assume, favorably to the State, that the relief sought is a decree ordering Logan to pay the total of all of the individual "restitutions" to the State for distribution by it to the consumers.

I

Section 11-209(a) does not in terms say that the Attorney General may obtain in an enforcement action a monetary recovery for the benefit of third persons. The State, however, argues that a proper construction of the trial court's power to "[r]emove the effects of any violation" includes power to award the money requested in prayer B. In support the State cites Porter v. Warner Holding Co., 328 U.S. 395, 66 S.Ct. 1086, 90 L.Ed. 1332 (1946), a case arising under § 205(a) of the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, ch. 26, 56 Stat. 23, 33 (1942). Porter held that, in an action by the administrator to enjoin violations, an equity court had jurisdiction to order repayment of overcharges. Courts have similarly interpreted other statutes. See Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc., 361 U.S. 288, 80 S.Ct. 332, 4 L.Ed.2d 323 (1960) (equitable enforcement action under Fair Labor Standards Act may include order to reimburse lost wages incident to a wrongful discharge;...

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  • Natural Design, Inc. v. Rouse Co.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1983
    ...15 U.S.C. § 1. Thus, decisions of the federal courts interpreting § 1 of the Sherman Act guide us here. See State v. Jonathan Logan Inc., 301 Md. 63, 66-68, 482 A.2d 1 (1984); Quality Disc. Tires v. Firestone Tire, 282 Md. 7, 11, 382 A.2d 867 The plaintiffs maintain that legitimate price co......
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  • Davidson v. Microsoft Corp.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
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    ...of law comparable to [s]ection 11-209(b)(2) of the Maryland Antitrust law." 541 F.Supp. at 64.3See also State v. Jonathan Logan, Inc., 301 Md. 63, 67-68, 75, 482 A.2d 1 (1984)(describing section 4 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 4, as "[a]n analogous civil enforcement provision under the fe......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Maryland. Practice Text
    • United States
    • ABA Antitrust Library State Antitrust Practice and Statutes (FIFTH). Volume II
    • December 9, 2014
    ...Act are MD. CODE ANN., COM. LAW §§ 11-204(a)(1) and (2). 292. Id. § 11-212. 293. Id. 294. Id. 295. Id. 296. Id. § 11-209(a)(4). 297. 482 A.2d 1 (Md. 1984). 298. Md. Code Ann., Com. Law § 11-209(a)(3). 299. Id. §§ 11-209(b)(5) and (c). 300. 15 U.S.C. § 15c. Maryland 23-37 definition of “pers......

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