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BONJORNO v. KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEM. CORP.

June 17, 1981

Joseph A. BONJORNO, George M. Kerr, Jr. and Barbara K. Clisby, as Transferees in Liquidation and Dissolution of Columbia Metal Culvert Co., Inc.
v.
KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL CORP. and Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHAPIRO

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

 Post-trial motions in this antitrust litigation are before the court pursuant to a limited remand order of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Defendants Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. ("KACC") and Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc. ("KACSI") move for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial, following a jury verdict in favor of Columbia Metal Culvert Co., Inc. ("Columbia") *fn1" finding KACC and KACSI in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2, and awarding damages in the sum of $ 1,815,000. Judgment was entered for the plaintiff in the trebled amount of $ 5,445,000.

 Columbia originally brought suit against KACC and KACSI and former Columbia salesman Robert A. Kennedy and the company he owned, Kennedy Culvert and Supply, an independent distributor of culvert and drainage pipe manufactured by KACSI. The complaint alleged violations of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2, and Section 3 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 14. At the jury trial held before the Hon. Edward N. Cahn, a directed verdict for all defendants was entered at the close of Columbia's case on the ground that Columbia had not made out a prima facie case of conspiracy in restraint of trade between KACC/KACSI and the Kennedy defendants. The district court further found that the product market was not limited to aluminum culvert pipe as Columbia had maintained but included culvert pipe whether made from either aluminum or steel. Since the Kaiser share of the aluminum and steel culvert pipe market was concededly not significant, the court held that Kaiser could not have monopoly power. The court further found that no prima facie violation of Section 3 of the Clayton Act had been proven. See, Columbia Metal Culvert Co., Inc. v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp., Civil Action No. 74-122 (July 20, 1977).

 On appeal by Columbia, the Third Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part. The Court affirmed the grant of a directed verdict in favor of the Kennedy defendants on the issue of conspiracy. The Court also upheld the district court's finding that no prima facie case of a Clayton Act violation had been proven. However, the grant of a directed verdict in favor of defendants KACC and KACSI was reversed. The Court held that:

 
(1) There was sufficient evidence to allow a jury reasonably to conclude that a relevant market for Sherman Act purposes was composed of aluminum culvert only rather than culvert of either aluminum or steel;
 
(2) There was sufficient evidence to go to the jury on the charge that KACSI and KACC violated § 2 of the Sherman Act by monopolizing or attempting to monopolize the aluminum culvert market; and
 
(3) There was sufficient evidence to go to the jury on the charge that KACC and KACSI conspired in restraint of trade in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act.

 A bifurcated trial before this court resulted in a determination of defendants' liability in answer to special interrogatories (attached to this opinion as Appendix A); the jury found that the relevant product market was for aluminum culvert pipe, that defendants KACC and KACSI had monopolized, attempted to monopolize, and conspired to monopolize this market in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act; that KACC and KACSI had conspired in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act; and that Columbia had been injured by the unlawful acts of KACC and KACSI.

 The jury then awarded damages in the amount of $ 1,048,000 for lost profits, $ 710,000 for the destruction of Columbia as a going concern, and $ 57,000 for the cost of extra metal (relating to Columbia's spiral machine for making pipe), a total of $ 1,815,000, which trebled resulted in a judgment of $ 5,445,000. Following a second appeal, the case was remanded to the district court for disposition of post-trial motions. *fn2" (Docket Entry # 426). Columbia having won a jury verdict at trial, we consider the following facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff.

 Columbia was a company specializing in the manufacture and marketing of aluminum culvert pipe with a plant in Vineland, New Jersey. KACC manufactures aluminum sheet and coil from which aluminum culvert pipe is constructed and conveys these materials to its wholly-owned subsidiary KACSI, which in turn sells the sheet and coil to pipe manufacturers such as Columbia. KACSI also fabricates and sells aluminum culvert pipe itself in competition with the fabricators to whom it supplies sheet and coil.

 These three entities had a successful business relationship for many years during which Kaiser was Columbia's main material supplier. Beginning in 1971, a four-pronged effort took place to put Columbia out of business in retaliation for Columbia's placing of aluminum orders with Reynolds Aluminum. This KACC/KACSI effort included a refusal to sell to Columbia, a decision to locate a new culvert manufacturing plant within fifty miles of Columbia's plant, setting up Robert A. Kennedy, Columbia's best salesman, in business as an independent distributor of KACSI products, and a "price squeeze" by KACC and KACSI, accomplished by transferring sheet and coil from KACC to KACSI below cost. This allowed KACSI to make a profit on sales of pipe at prices which Columbia could not match; the price of aluminum was increasing and the supply of the metal was severely limited.

 The Kaiser defendants move this court for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, on the ground that Columbia produced insufficient evidence to support the verdict in several material respects. In the alternative, defendants move for a new trial on the ground that the verdict was contrary to law, against the weight of the evidence, and that the court erred in certain evidentiary rulings, in jury instructions, and in submission of certain interrogatories to the jury.

 In ruling on a motion for judgment N.O.V., "it is the duty of the trial court to take that view of the evidence most favorable to the party against whom the motion is made, and from that evidence, and the inferences reasonably and justifiably to be drawn therefrom, determine whether or not, under the law, a verdict might be found for him." 6A Moore's Federal Practice § 59.08(5) at pg. 59-152 (1979). On the other hand, a motion for new trial, on the ground that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Id.

 POST-TRIAL MOTIONS LIABILITY

 Defendants' contentions must fail in view of the Circuit Court's opinion in Columbia Metal Culvert Company, Inc. v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation, 579 F.2d 20 (3d Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 876, 99 S. Ct. 214, 58 L. Ed. 2d 190 (1978) and the doctrine of the law of the case.

 As noted in Otten v. Stonewall Ins. Co., 538 F.2d 210, 212 (8th Cir. 1976):

 
This court has repeatedly held that the decision on former appeal is the "law of the case' on a question presented in that former appeal, unless the evidence introduced at the subsequent trial is substantially different from that considered on the first appeal, and must be followed in all subsequent proceedings in such case in both district and appellate courts, unless the decision is clearly erroneous and works manifest injustice. (emphasis supplied, citations omitted).

 See, e.g., United States v. American Bag & Paper Corp., 609 F.2d 1066, 1067, n.3 (3d Cir. 1979) (determination by panel of Court of Appeals was law of the case and later panel was bound by it); Skehan v. Board of Trustees of Bloomsburg State College, 590 F.2d 470, 482 (3d Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 832, 100 S. Ct. 61, 62 L. Ed. 2d 41 (1979) (Court of Appeals' prior opinions were law governing the case with respect to question of whether it was permissible to remand plaintiff's due process claims to district court and district court's observations on remand were of no effect); Chlystek v. Kane, 540 F.2d 171, 173 (3d Cir. 1976) (Court of Appeals governed by law of the case from prior appeal with respect to whether a substantial federal question was present); Spock v. David, 502 F.2d 953, 955 (3d Cir. 1974), reversed on other grounds, 424 U.S. 828, 96 S. Ct. 1211, 47 L. Ed. 2d 505 (1976) (on essentially the same record as was before the Court of Appeals prior to remand, both the district court on remand and the panel of the Court of Appeals on appeal following remand were bound, with respect to issue decided by the Court of Appeals prior to remand, by decision on that issue as the law of the case); A. M. Webb & Co. v. Robert P. Miller Co., 176 F.2d 678, 680-81 (3d Cir. 1946) (on trial after remand of case, questions settled by Court of Appeals could not be relitigated); Moyer v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., 126 F.2d 141, 143 (3d Cir. 1942) (law of case on prior appeal as to sufficiency of the evidence on certain points precluded reconsideration thereof upon defendant's appeal of district court denial of judgment N.O.V. after second trial).

 This court is bound by the Third Circuit's decision on issues presented and decided explicitly or implicitly in the prior appeal. See, Todd and Company, Inc. v. SEC, 637 F.2d 154 (3d Cir. 1980). For this reason we reject Kaiser's initial contention in its brief in support of post-trial motions, that because KACSI is "wholly owned and controlled" by KACC (Defendant's Brief in Support of Motions at 2), the two corporate entities are incapable of a conspiracy for lack of the requisite plurality of actors. The Third Circuit explicitly rejected this argument as "not well-founded in law," and reaffirmed the viability of the "intra-enterprise conspiracy theory" as applied to separate corporate entities. Columbia Metal, supra at 33. See, Cromar Company v. Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp., 543 F.2d 501, 511 (3d Cir. 1976) (absence of the appearance of competition between parent corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary not a bar to Section 1 Sherman Act liability.) This court may not reconsider that determination.

 A similar fate befalls Kaiser's contention that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of an unlawful conspiracy between KACC and KACSI, insufficient evidence to support a finding that KACC or KACSI had a specific intent to monopolize or to wilfully maintain monopoly power, insufficient evidence to support a finding that the relevant product market was aluminum culvert and drainage pipe alone, and insufficient evidence to support the court's charge on the price squeeze issue. The Third Circuit explicitly found the evidence sufficient to allow a jury to find for Columbia on each of these points. Columbia, supra at 37.

 Product Market

 The evidence persuasive to the Third Circuit on the product market issue, Columbia, supra at 29-31, essentially repeated itself at the second trial. For example, there again was testimony that aluminum is a specialty material *fn3" and that there are specialized vendors of aluminum products. *fn4" Several witnesses testified that the physical properties of the three types of manufactured culvert pipe, steel, concrete and aluminum, differ significantly. *fn5" Because of these differences, evidence at the second trial again showed that specifications for construction projects require one type of culvert rather than another. *fn6" From this evidence a jury might infer that distinct markets exist for aluminum, steel and concrete pipe, at least from the contractor's point of view. See, Columbia, supra, at 28.

 The record here shows, as did the record before the Court of Appeals, that a jury would not act unreasonably in finding that, "patterns of action on the part of engineers who specify the type of culvert to be used establish aluminum as a separate market." Columbia, supra at 28. Again, there is testimony that price was not a crucial factor in these engineering decisions *fn7" and that the three culvert products are neither interchangeable nor in competition from an engineering standpoint. *fn8"

 Defendants also argue that steel and aluminum culvert may share the same production facilities as an indicia of products in the same market for Sherman Act purposes. The fact that the same production facilities can be used to turn out steel and aluminum culvert and even the fact that companies often manufacture both products is insufficient to preclude the existence of separate markets as a matter of law; Columbia, supra, at 29 n. 30.

 Defendants vigorously assert that the evidence does not support the jury's finding of an aluminum culvert product market. (See, Defendants' Brief in Support of Motions at pp. 99-109). Defendants point to extensive testimony, particularly that of defendants' expert, Dr. Epstein, supportive of their view. But the jury rejected defendants' testimony on these points and accepted that of the plaintiff; the Court of Appeals has already determined that plaintiff's evidence would reasonably support such a jury finding.

 Thus this court accepts the jury finding of an aluminum culvert pipe product market, as sufficiently supported by the evidence.

 The evidence found sufficient to prove unlawful conspiracy between the defendants, Columbia, supra at 34-35, was also placed before the jury in the second trial. Again there was evidence that KACC and KACSI combined to impose a price squeeze. For example, there was evidence from which the jury could infer that Collins of KACSI had no part in setting the specification price of coil, which was a KACC price (N.T. 171, 1972, 1957), that Collins was chastised by KACC for not getting prices up high enough (P-950, N.T. 2277, 2281, 2560), that Collins reported to the Sheet and Plate Division of KACC (N.T. 2307, 1718-20), that someone higher than Collins was responsible for the price increase crucial to this litigation (N.T. 1972), that KACC transferred coil to KACSI below cost (N.T. 1964, P-823) and that Collins' request for a plant in New Castle, Delaware was approved by KACC (N.T. 1792, 2114, 2317, 2372, 1976, P-204, 210). See, Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Defendants' Motions at pp. 12-13. From this and other information adduced at trial, the jury might again infer that "the pricing policies of KACSI were not independent ... but rather arrived at jointly with KACC." Columbia, 579 F.2d at 35. Although there was evidence from which a contrary finding might have been made (see, Defendants' Brief in Support of Motions at pp. 32-59), we find the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's conclusion that KACC and its wholly-owned subsidiary, KACSI, conspired in violation of the Sherman Act.

 Intent to Monopolize

 Defendants argue that plaintiff's evidence was insufficient to support the jury's finding that the Kaiser defendants monopolized or attempted to monopolize in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act (see, Defendants' Brief in Support of Motions at pp. 60-99). Judge Cahn's directed verdict for defendants on this issue at the first trial resulted from his related finding that steel and aluminum, rather than aluminum culvert pipe alone, must constitute the relevant product market. The Third Circuit, as discussed above, found that it was not unreasonable to conclude that culvert pipe alone constituted a relevant market, and therefore that "the foundation of the directed verdict on the § 2 count collapses." Columbia, 579 F.2d at 31. The Court of Appeals also stated that there was sufficient evidence to infer that KACSI, an entity controlling 80% of the market, attempted to drive Columbia out of business. Columbia, 579 F.2d at 31. That same evidence persuasive to the Court of Appeals was presented to the jury at the second trial. Holmes Collins' threat to place an aluminum culvert plant near Columbia if Columbia purchased from Reynolds, and the later placement of a plant in New Castle, Delaware (N.T. 1228) that was originally planned for Virginia, (N.T. 1533, 1540-1541, 1730), were submitted to the jury. Again, there was evidence that, "transportation of culvert is a significant item of expense for the product in question and a local manufacturer of culvert has an advantage over one whose plant is at a distance from the place of delivery" ( Columbia, supra at 31), from which the jury might infer intentional harm caused Columbia by Kaiser's placement of its plant (N.T. 2317-2318, 2840). Again, an inference could be drawn from evidence that the Delaware KACSI plant sold culvert at lower prices than other plants even though Delaware costs were no lower (N.T. 1734, 2544-2545), that KACC transferred sheet and coil to KACSI at an accounting price less than production cost and well below market price (N.T. 1964, 3654), and that Collins of KACSI extended credit to Kennedy, formerly a Columbia salesman, against the recommendation of the KACSI credit department (N.T. 1849-1863, 2525-2529, 2842-2849, 2854, 2997, Exhibits P-75, P-24, P-5). The Arvay testimony, specifically noted by the Third Circuit, Columbia, supra at 31, n.43, again supported plaintiff's theory (N.T. 719, 729, 752). Finally, an inference that Kaiser controlled more than 80% of the relevant market was again reasonably supported by the evidence. (N.T. 73-75, 780, 1261, 1809, 1810, 1814, 2509, Exhibit P-201). Therefore, the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's conclusion that the defendants monopolized or attempted to monopolize in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.

 In summary, on the liability issues, the evidence on retrial was not substantially different from that considered by the appellate court and must be deemed sufficient to support the jury's finding in favor of the plaintiff. Moreover, not only was the evidence sufficient, the court in the exercise of its discretion does not find the jury's determination so against the weight of the evidence as to shock the conscience of the court. Therefore, a new trial would be denied on all issues of liability. The court has carefully considered all other grounds raised by defendants in their motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and, with the exception of ground eleven (11) relating to damages and discussed infra, determines them to be without merit.

 DAMAGES

 The trial of this matter having been bifurcated, after the jury verdict on liability against defendants, two days of testimony on damages followed; the jury, again upon answers to special interrogatories (attached hereto as Appendix B), then found damages in favor of plaintiff in these amounts: 1) $ 57,000 for increased costs of metal; 2) $ 1,048,000 for lost profits; and 3) $ 710,000 for the reduction in the value of Columbia as a going concern. The total damage award by the jury was $ 1,815,000. The jury's award was trebled in accordance with the remedy provided in Section Four of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 15; the final judgment in plaintiff's favor is in the amount of $ 5,445,000.

 Defendants raise numerous objections as to the award of damages.

 Causation

 Defendants argue that plaintiff did not establish the requisite causal link, under Section Four of the Clayton Act, between the financial damage suffered by Columbia and the defendants' violation of the antitrust laws. Defendants assert that they are entitled to judgment in their favor if the damages to the plaintiff were caused in whole or in part by factors other than defendants' violations of the antitrust laws. *fn9" Defendants assert that Joseph Bonjorno, Columbia's chief witness and shareholder, on cross-examination identified several reasons, other than defendants' activities, for losses suffered by Columbia during the relevant time period. Among those causes cited by defendants are: the recession in the construction industry, *fn10" a nationwide aluminum shortage, *fn11" the inability of Columbia to obtain price protection from suppliers, *fn12" and the unstable financial condition of Columbia's chief financial backer, George Kerr. *fn13"

 Damages attributable to an antitrust violation are recoverable even when factors other than defendant's wrongful acts alone may have contributed to the plaintiff's injury. 15 Antitrust Laws and Trade Regulation § 115.01(2) (1978). In this case there was sufficient evidence, if accepted by the jury, to show that Columbia's business decline was caused by Kaiser's illegal activity. Mr. Bonjorno stated repeatedly, both on direct and on cross-examination, that the injury to Columbia was caused by Kaiser's illegal activity. *fn14" He also stated that in projecting damage figures he had considered the legal competition of others in the marketplace. (N.T. 3971). He further stated that the damage projections did not go beyond a point where it was simply too difficult to determine "who was responsible for what" (N.T. 3858). When cross-examined as to other possible causal factors in Columbia's decline, Bonjorno either asserted that these factors were not significant or that Kaiser's illegal activity had made Columbia particularly vulnerable to troubles that, absent such wrongdoing, would not have created financial problems. *fn15" The jury had before it, through this adept cross-examination, those other factors. However, the jury found that Kaiser's illegal activity caused the financial harm suffered by Columbia. Damages for injury by antitrust violations may be implied even though other factors may have contributed to the injury. See, Bigelow v. RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., 327 U.S. 251, 264-265, 66 S. Ct. 574, 579-580, 90 L. Ed. 652 (1946); Switzer Brothers, Inc. v. Locklin, 297 F.2d 39 (7th Cir. 1961), cert. denied, 369 U.S. 851, 82 S. Ct. 934, 8 L. Ed. 2d 9 (1962). Here, plaintiff did show, with the requisite reasonable certainty, an injury in consequence of Kaiser's conduct. See, Pitchford v. PEPI, Inc., 531 F.2d 92 (3d Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 426 U.S. 935, 96 S. Ct. 2649, 49 L. Ed. 2d 387 (1976). Judgment notwithstanding the verdict on causation would be improper.

 Duplication in Damages Award

 Defendants assert that, when the jury returned a verdict of $ 1,048,000 for loss of profits during 1974-1977 and $ 710,000 for the reduction in the value of plaintiff's business as a going concern as of May 1, 1977, Columbia was awarded a double recovery for the same loss. Defendants' theory for this duplication argument is not clear but seems to include these contentions. Defendants first argue that plaintiff's recovery of lost profits in this action together with the amount received from the sale of Columbia's assets to Howmet in 1977 for $ 574,000 fully compensated plaintiff for its losses because the value of Columbia as a going concern was the amount received from Howmet at the time of sale. Receiving damages for business as a going concern under this theory duplicates the money paid Columbia by Howmet in 1977 not the lost profits awarded by the jury at trial. A part of this argument is that either Howmet paid for Columbia's total going concern value as of May, 1977 (including goodwill) or that Howmet bought only Columbia's assets; i. e., all Columbia had left at that time, as Columbia itself asserts. If the latter is the case, Kaiser argues that projected lost future profits should not add to a going concern value since Columbia, defunct as of 1977, could have no future profits.

 Defendants next contend that the method of calculating the damage to Columbia as a going concern caused a duplication between the two theories of damage recovery. Defendants state that the same figures used to calculate past lost profits, were used to project Columbia's profits into the future, post 1977, to arrive at a going concern value. (A going concern value indirectly reflects future profits as "(t)he current market value of a business is, in theory, the discounted present value of the estimated flow of future earnings." Glauser Dodge Co. v. Chrysler Corp., 418 F. Supp. 1009, 1023 (D.N.J.1976), reversed on other grounds, 570 F.2d 72 (3d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 436 U.S. 913, 98 S. Ct. 2253, 56 L. Ed. 2d 413 (1978) rehearing denied, 438 U.S. 908, 98 S. Ct. 3128, 57 L. Ed. 2d 1150 (1978).) This, defendants maintain, created an impermissible duplication since the same figures establish both damage theories. *fn16" Finally, defendants argue that a recovery for going concern value and lost profits is generally not allowed.

 We will deal with the last contention first. As noted in 15 Antitrust Laws and Trade Regulation § 115.03(1) (1978), "there are three types of damages that a successful antitrust plaintiff may recover under Section 4: (1) increased costs; (2) lost past net profits; and (3) reduction in the value of the business. Absent unique circumstances, these three types are not duplicative of each other." (emphasis supplied). Numerous cases support this general proposition. See, Story Parchment Co. v. Paterson Parchment Paper Company, 282 U.S. 555, 561, 51 S. Ct. 248, 250, 75 L. Ed. 544 (1931) ("(t)he trial court submitted to the jury for consideration only two items of damages, (1) the difference, if any, between the amounts actually realized by petitioner and what would have been realized by it from sales at reasonable prices except for the unlawful acts of the respondents' and (2) the extent to which the value of the petitioner's property had been diminished as the result of such acts."); Glauser Dodge Co. v. Chrysler Corp., 418 F. Supp. 1009, supra, (involved damages for both lost profits and going concern value); Eiberger v. Sony Corp. of America, 622 F.2d 1068, 1081 (2d Cir. 1980) ("(t)he district court ruled that ABP was entitled to compensation for two categories of injuries lost profits on sales that were prevented prior to the termination of its Sony dealership, and the reduction in the value of ABP's business resulting from the termination"); Copper Liquor, Inc. v. Adolph Coors Co., 624 F.2d 575 (5th Cir. 1980) (lost profits and goodwill loss, determined in part by reference to potential for future profits); Albrecht v. Herald Co., 452 F.2d 124 (8th Cir. 1971) (sufficient compensation ...


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