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PORTER v. SUNSHINE PACKING CORP.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


October 25, 1948

PORTER
v.
SUNSHINE PACKING CORPORATION OF PENNSYLVANIA

The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY

This is an action by the Administrator of the Office of Price Administration against the Sunshine Packing Corporation of Pennsylvania, brought on behalf of the United States for treble damages pursuant to the provisions of Section 205(e) of the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, Pub. Law 421, 77th Cong., 2nd Sess., 56 Stat. 23, as amended by Public Law 729, 77th Cong., 2nd Sess., Ch. 578, 56 Stat. 765, 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, ยงยง 925(e), 961 et seq. Jurisdiction of this action is conferred upon this Court by Sections 205(c) and 205(e) of said Act, hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'.

The action was tried before a jury and on September 25, 1946, a verdict was returned in favor of the Administrator and against the Sunshine Packing Corporation of Pennsylvania in the amount of $ 7,194.16. In connection with the overcharges which the jury found to exist and upon which the verdict was based, it was found that although the actions of the defendant were not willful, the overcharges were the result of the failure of the defendant to exercise practicable precautions to comply with the ceiling prices as provided by the Maximum Price Regulations which were involved. The Court entered judgment on said verdict in favor of the government and against the defendant in the amount of $ 14, 388.82, which was double the amount of the overcharges. The matter is before the Court on motion of the defendant requesting the entry of judgment non obstante veredicto, or that the verdict and judgment entered thereon be set aside. The reasons assigned therefor are as follows:

 1. That the Court should have directed a verdict for the defendant as to crab apple juice for the reason that the ceiling price thereon should have been computed under Maximum Price Regulation No. 233 and not under General Maximum Price Regulation.

 2. That as to strawberry juice, black raspberry juice, and currants the Court erred in not directing a verdict for the defendant for the reason that the percentage of yield in the case of each of said items should have been computed and included in the calculations as to ceiling prices and not having been so computed and included, the maximum prices, as calculated on said items by the plaintiff, were erroneous.

 3. That as to currants the Court should have directed a verdict for the defendant for the reason that in the computation as to costs, the plaintiff included as sales made in the base period sales which should have been excluded therefrom.

 4. That the Court erred in not directing the verdict for the defendant in that --

 (a) As to the prices which plaintiff seeks to enforce against crab apple juice and grape juice under the General Maximum Price Regulation, that the plaintiff is without authority or capacity to enforce such prices because the First Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Act of 1943, 56 Stat. 704, by virtue of a proviso enacted therein repealed the General Maximum Price Regulation in so far as that regulation purports to control the prices of crab apple juice and grape juice.

 (b) That as to strawberries, black raspberry juice and currants the prices sought to be enforced by plaintiff cannot as a matter of law be enforced by plaintiff because the use of the funds appropriated by the First Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Act of 1943 and the four succeeding Appropriation Acts which have provided the funds which the Administrator has used, is using and will continue to use to enforce maximum prices, has been denied him for the purpose of enforcing any maximum price on any agricultural food product where the price of such product does not conform in all respects with the provisions of the Stabilization Act of 1942, as amended.

 (c) That the prices plaintiff seeks to enforce as to strawberries, black raspberry juice and currants do not reflect to the producer thereof the current parity or comparable prices in effect at the time the sales specified in the bill of complaint were made.

 5. That the evidence is insufficient to sustain the finding of fact as to the lack of due precaution on the part of the defendant to ascertain its true ceiling prices.

 Since this action is somewhat involved and has been pending since January of 1944, in order for an intelligent understanding to be had as to the various legal questions which exist, it appears advisable to review in some detail the background of the proceeding.

 An adjudication has not been made of the questions which exist at an earlier date due to continuances being granted by the Court at the request of the defendant. This was caused by the illness, from time to time, of defendant's counsel. The matter was argued before the Court during the September Term of Court, 1948, at Erie, Pennsylvania. In the complaint filed, the government claimed that the defendant violated applicable maximum price regulations as they relate to certain commodities which were manufactured, sold and precessed by the defendant company: -- - Total Regulation Product Overcharge Overcharge GMPR (7 F.R. 3153) Crab apple juice 2509.00 Grape juice 6755.00 9264.00 MPR 185 (7 F.R. 5772) Strawberry juice 1348.50 Black raspberry juice 805.00 2153.50 MPR 207 (7 F.R. 6599) Frozen strawberries 114545.45 114545.45 MPR 409 (8 F.R. 8353) Strawberries (1943 pack) 8910.00 Red Currants 2531.66 11441.66 Total $ 137404.61

19481025

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