Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

INDIAN COFFEE CORP. v. P&G

January 14, 1980

INDIAN COFFEE CORP., a Corporation, and PENN-WESTERN FOOD CORP., a Corporation Plaintiffs,
v.
THE PROCTER & GAMBLE COMPANY, a Corporation, and THE FOLGER COFFEE COMPANY, a Corporation Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DIAMOND

Plaintiffs, Indian Coffee Corporation (Indian) and its wholly-owned subsidiary Penn-Western Food Corporation (Penn-Western), filed this suit alleging that the defendants, The Procter & Gamble Company (Procter & Gamble) and its wholly-owned subsidiary The Folger Coffee Company (Folger), violated § 2(a) of the Clayton Act, as amended by the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 13(a), by granting discriminatory prices in the sale of "Folger's" brand coffee in the Cleveland-Pittsburgh market area during 1971-1974.

Two defense motions are presently before the court. The first, made by both defendants, requests that summary judgment be entered as to all of Penn-Western's claims on the ground that it lacks standing to bring the instant suit. The second, filed by only defendant Procter & Gamble, seeks a dismissal of the complaint as to Procter & Gamble for lack of in personam jurisdiction over it. For the reasons set forth below, we will grant both motions.

 In the motion for summary judgment, the defendants contend that Penn-Western's cause of action was one of the many assets it sold to Wechsler Penn Coffee Corporation (Wechsler), and that, therefore, Penn-Western has no standing to bring this suit.

 The defendants' motion is based on the plaintiffs' amended complaint and the written contract attached thereto entitled "Sale And Purchase Of Assets" (Agreement) among Indian Coffee Corporation, Penn-Western Food Corporation and Wechsler-Penn Coffee Corporation. Of course, therefore, there is no genuine issue as to any material fact concerning the existence and contents of the Agreement, Rule 56 Fed.R.Civ.P. The plaintiffs have submitted the affidavit of one James H. Deily, a shareholder of Indian and officer and director of both Indian and Penn-Western. To this affidavit was attached, as exhibit 1, a copy of an "Assignment and Bill of Sale" from Indian and Penn-Western to Wechsler dated April 5, 1974. From our examination of the foregoing, we conclude that there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding the alleged transfer of the right to this cause of action from Penn-Western to Wechsler; that it was in fact transferred, and, therefore, the motion for summary judgment must be granted.

 Prior to April 5, 1974, Indian and Penn-Western were engaged in the production of coffee for sale in this region. On that date, however, they sold most of the assets related to their respective coffee businesses to Wechsler. The assets that were to be transferred in the sale were listed generally in P 1 of the Agreement and its related sub-paragraphs. After setting forth a series of specific properties included in the sale, P 1 concludes with the provision that:

 
1.10 All other properties and assets of sellers as the same exists on the date hereof, such as office supplies, promotional materials, display materials, fixtures, processes, customer lists, leasehold improvements, excluding, however . . . (iv) any monetary award or other damages recovered by Indian in connection with the proceedings instituted by it and pending before the Federal Trade Commission or any Civil action or any settlement fee or award related thereto . . . (emphasis supplied).

 The only other relevant portion of the contract is P 14 entitled "Miscellaneous", specifically P 14.8 entitled "Reservation By Sellers" which provides:

 
14.8 Reservation By Sellers. It is specifically understood and agreed that Indian shall retain all of its right, title and interest in its claim filed with the Federal Trade Commission, which proceedings commenced by Indian are still pending. Indian, in addition, shall retain all right to any civil action which may be hereinafter instituted, as well as to the proceeds of any settlement negotiated with any of its competitors in connection therewith . . . .

 Those two provisions make it clear, defendants argue, that the parties to the Agreement contemplated that anti-trust suits might arise as a result of activities by plaintiffs' competitors, but that only Indian excepted and reserved the right to retain and maintain any preexisting right of action following the sale.

 Plaintiffs counter with three basic arguments. First, they say that a chose in action was not the sort of asset referred to in the catch-all provisions of P 1.10. They argue in their brief that the language "such as office supplies, promotional materials, display materials . . ." contemplated the transfer of ". . . trade assets, not assets of a non-essential, non-business nature," and that law suits, unlike office supplies, and the like, are not trade assets.

 Finally, plaintiffs argue that even if the parties Intended to transfer Penn-Western's chose in action, Wechsler's lack of involvement indicates that this portion of the agreement was never performed and, therefore, the right to maintain the suit remains in Penn-Western.

 We are not persuaded by plaintiffs' arguments. First, it is clear to us that P 1.10 did have the legal effect of transferring Penn-Western's cause of action. While it may be, as plaintiffs argue, that a chose in action is so different from the other assets enumerated in the "such as" clause of P 1.10 that one would not ordinarily include it therein, that argument loses weight in light of other language in the agreement. For instance, the exclusionary clause of P 1.10 which follows the "such as" phrase indicates that the drafters felt that the preceding language did include, inter alia, a "civil action," for they made it a point, but as To Indian only, to specifically exclude it from transfer. The same is true under, P 14.8, "Reservation By Sellers" where they specifically reserve, but, again, as To Indian only ". . . all right to any civil action which may ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.