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TRIPOLI CO. v. WELLA CORP.

June 26, 1968

Tripoli Co., Inc.
v.
Wella Corp.


Weiner, D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINER

Defendant manufacturer has moved for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b), against plaintiff distributor, in this private, treble-damage antitrust action. In its original suit, plaintiff complains that after approximately thirty years of distributing defendant's beauty supplies to retailers and consumers, plaintiff has now been refused defendant's trade. In its complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant has so acted on the ground that plaintiff has from time to time charged its customers a price lower than that which defendant recommended for resale.

 In its answer to the complaint, defendant denies as "utterly false and untrue" the allegation that resale price maintenance figured among its motives in discontinuing plaintiff as one of its distributors. Rather, defendant counters, its reasons for ceasing to sell to plaintiff were based solely on the latter's unwillingness to follow defendant's instructions that certain of its products were to be sold in accordance with the instructions marked thereon, viz.: "for professional use only, not to be resold [to the non-expert public at large] ".

 At this stage of the pleadings, defendant made its motion for summary judgment. Thereafter both plaintiff and defendant submitted opposing affidavits, as specifically required by amended Rule 56(e). Issue is therefore joined for the purposes of this motion.

 Discussion of plaintiff-respondent's contentions in its complaint must be divided into two parts. We deal first with any cause of action which might be made out under the antitrust laws. We shall then focus upon the specific case made out by the respective parties on this motion by defendant-petitioner for summary judgment in its favor.

 In its complaint, and again in its brief opposing the instant motion, respondent speaks of violations of simply "the Clayton and Robinson-Patman Acts." Respondent appears to seek the protection, more exactly, of the Clayton Anti-Trust Act §§ 1, 2 (as amended by the Robinson-Patman Act § 1), and 4, 15 U.S.C. §§ 12, 13, and 15.

 Although respondent uses the language of the cases under Sherman Act § 1 (as amended by the Miller-Tydings Fair Trade Act), now 15 U.S.C. § 1, *fn1" by alleging a refusal to deal on the part of petitioner allegedly because of respondent's lack of cooperation toward resale price maintenance, Sherman Act § 1 avails respondent nothing, because no "contract, combination . . . or conspiracy" has been either pleaded or proved. Contrast Albrecht v. Herald Co., 390 U.S. 145, 19 L. Ed. 2d 998, 88 S. Ct. 869 (1968); United States v. Arnold, Schwinn & Co., 388 U.S. 365, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1249, 87 S. Ct. 1856 (1967); United States v. Parke, Davis & Co., 362 U.S. 29, 4 L. Ed. 2d 505, 80 S. Ct. 503 (1960); Frey & Son v. Cudahy Packing Co., 256 U.S. 208, 65 L. Ed. 892, 41 S. Ct. 451 (1921); Dr. Miles Medical Co. v. Park & Sons Co., 220 U.S. 373, 55 L. Ed. 502, 31 S. Ct. 376 (1911).

 Clayton Act § 2, 15 U.S.C. § 13, prohibits price discrimination. Unlike Sherman Act § 1, it does not require a "contract, combination . . . or conspiracy, in restraint of trade," but makes it unlawful, rather,

 
for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, either directly or indirectly, to discriminate in price between different purchasers of commodities of like grade and quality . . . where the effect of such discrimination may be substantially to lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly in any line of commerce . . . .

 From the portion of Clayton Act § 2 here quoted, it will readily be seen that the discrimination decried presupposes unequal treatment between two otherwise equally situated customers, and that the section does not envisage the type of situation of which respondent complains in its treble-damage action.

 In short, even if its pleadings were taken on their face, and even if petitioner had, as alleged, refused to deal unilaterally with respondent because the latter declined to maintain a resale price to petitioner's liking, without the added circumstance of a conspiracy of which petitioner were a part, or of a price discrimination practiced upon respondent to another's advantage, respondent has made out no cause of action cognizable under the federal antitrust laws. On this motion, however, there is an even more compelling reason why summary judgment must be granted petitioner.

 
'The very mission of the summary judgment procedure is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial. The Third Circuit doctrine, which permits the pleadings themselves to stand in the way of granting an otherwise justified summary judgment, is incompatible with the basic purpose of the rule . . . .'

 This amendment must be made fully effective. Robin Constr. Co. v. United States, 345 F.2d 610, 615 (3d Cir. 1965). With this admonition in mind, we turn now to the ...


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