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BONJORNO v. KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEM. CORP.

January 17, 1983

JOSEPH A. BONJORNO, GEORGE M. KERR, JR. and BARBARA K. CLISBY, as Transferrees 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

 NORMA L. SHAPIRO, J.

 INTRODUCTION

 Before the court are post-trial motions arising out of a retrial on damages only in this antitrust litigation. Following the entry of judgment for plaintiffs on the jury's answers to four special interrogatories in the trebled amount of $9,567,939, defendants Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. ("KACC") and Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc. ("KACSI") moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial on both liability and damages.

 Plaintiff Columbia Metal Culvert Co., Inc. ("Columbia"), a liquidated corporation (interest in this litigation has been assigned to the present plaintiffs, its former shareholders), originally brought an action against KACC and KACSI, former Columbia salesman Robert A. Kennedy and his company, Kennedy Culvert and Supply, in which it 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. A detailed description of the specific actions complained of and the procedural history of this case is contained in the Memorandum accompanying the Order of June 17, 1981 published at 518 F. Supp. 102 (E.D.Pa. 1981).

 At the first trial before The Hon. Edward N. Cahn, judgment in favor of defendants was entered on defendants' motion for a directed verdict at the close of Columbia's evidence on the grounds that Columbia, formerly a manufacturer and distributor of aluminum culvert pipe, had not established a prima facie case of conspiracy in restraint of trade between KACC and KACSI or between either and Kennedy, proved that Kaiser had monopoly power in the relevant product market, or established a prima facie violation of Section 3 of the Clayton Act. The Third Circuit affirmed the grant of a directed verdict as to Kennedy but reversed as to KACC and KACSI, except on the Clayton Act count. Sufficient evidence was presented to allow a jury to decide the relevant product market, whether KACC/KACSI had monopolized or attempted to monopolize that market, and whether KACC and KACSI conspired in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.

 On remand and transfer to the docket of this court, there was a bifurcated trial by jury. The jury found on answers to special interrogatories that the relevant product market was aluminum culvert and drainage pipe, that KACC and KACSI had monopolized and attempted to monopolize the relevant product market, that KACC and KACSI had conspired in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, and that Columbia had been injured by the unlawful acts of KACC and KACSI. Damages awarded in the amount of $1,815,000 were trebled and judgment entered in favor of plaintiffs for $5,445,000. Following a direct appeal (because defendants post-trial motions were untimely filed), the case was remanded to this court by the Court of Appeals for disposition of Kaiser's motions for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or in the alternative for a new trial.

 We denied Kaiser's motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial as to liability because the evidence at retrial was not substantially different from that previously held adequate by the Court of Appeals; the jury's determination was not so against the weight of the evidence as to shock the conscience of the court. 518 F. Supp. at 102. However, judgment notwithstanding the verdict was granted as to the first interrogatory on damages (awarding defendants $57,000 for Columbia's increased usage of aluminum coil in 1971-73). Id. at 114. A new trial was granted on the second and third interrogatories, awarding $1,048,000 in lost profits from 1973 to May 31, 1977 and $710,000 for loss of going concern value thereafter.

 Plaintiffs had presented only two damages witnesses, plaintiff Bonjorno himself and an expert, Dr. Alfred Kuehn. The record was found insufficient to establish the requisite factual basis to allow the jury to make a rational determination of the accuracy of Bonjorno's testimony. Id. at 115. Dr. Kuehn's testimony was found confused and confusing. "The total effect is that of a witness who did not know what he was talking about; therefore, the jury could only rely upon charts and figures, the factual basis for which had not been adequately established or explained." Id. at 118. In sum, plaintiffs' evidence created a speculative verdict on damages. Id. at 117. Because the damages and liability issues were not inextricably interwoven, and there was no indication that the jury verdict was the result of compromise on the liability and damage questions, retrial on damages only was ordered. Id. at 119.

 The parties were requested to state their positions on procedure for a fair retrial on damages. Defendants had conceded at the argument on post-trial motions following the first trial that the court had the power to retry on damages only, but after the new trial on damages was granted, defendants argued that it would violate their constitutional right to trial by jury. However, counsel for defendants actively participated in discussions on the damage trial procedure.

 Upon the conclusion of this opening statement, counsel for plaintiffs made opening remarks not only on the evidence to be presented by plaintiffs during the retrial but also the liability evidence that had been presented during the prior trial. To provide the jury with an understanding of the activities that gave rise to liability, plaintiffs' counsel was permitted to list the types of activities by KACC and KACSI relied on by plaintiff to establish liability at the first trial: that defendants refused to sell raw materials to Columbia; located a new culvert manufacturing plant within forty miles of Columbia's plant to retaliate against Columbia for buying materials from another supplier; set up Kennedy, the former Columbia salesman, to compete with Columbia; instituted a "price squeeze," in which Kaiser raised the price of the aluminum needed to fabricate culvert but sold fabricated culvert at a constant price; and induced Columbia to buy a machine suitable for use only with Kaiser products unless modified at significant expense. (N.T. 32-41). Counsel for defendants responded to plaintiffs' statement on liability in his opening remarks. (N.T. 53-56).

 The jury, answering four special interrogatories on damages (attached hereto as Appendix A), awarded plaintiffs $728,000 for actual losses, $742,520 for lost profits on the sale of aluminum culvert pipe, $80,000 for lost profits on the sale of flat corrugated aluminum sheet, and $1,638,793 for the diminution in the value of the business. Judgment in the trebled amount of $9,567,939 was entered on this special verdict. Kaiser defendants have again filed post-trial motions. Judgment notwithstanding the verdict is sought on the grounds that: the retrial on damages was improper because the jury was unable to award damages flowing only from the antitrust injury; damages awarded for lost profits duplicated damages for actual losses (Int. 2); the profit projections were unsupported by evidence and artificially enhanced by plaintiffs' use of an improper geographic area and understatement of certain expenses; and the plaintiffs' contentions in the trial on damages contradicted their contentions on the price squeeze in the trial on liability. Defendants also contest the period for which an award of damages on actual losses and lost profits was permitted. Defendants claim that damages awarded for lost profits from the intended sale of flat corrugated sheet (Int. 3) were speculative. Defendants claim also that allowing damages for loss of the value of a going concern (Int. 4) was improper because Columbia did not prove it ever actually terminated business during the damage period. Defendants contend that in any event the damage for loss of going concern value was overstated and was based on assumptions not supported by the evidence.

 Defendants move in the alternative for a new trial on the grounds that the retrial on damages only was improper and prejudicial; the conduct of plaintiff's counsel was inflammatory; the court erred in its evidentiary rulings, charge and form of special verdict; and finally that the amount of the verdict was grossly excessive, shocking to the conscience, and the product of jury bias against defendants. Defendants' alternative motion for a new trial on damages only is denied. Defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is denied with regard to damages awarded in response to Interrogatories 1, 2 and 3 and granted as to damages awarded in response to Interrogatory 4. As a result, the jury's award is reduced by $1,638,793 (Int. 4) and the award remaining is in the total amount of $1,550,520. Therefore, when trebled, plaintiffs are entitled to entry of judgment in the amount of $4,651,560.

 RETRIAL ON DAMAGES ONLY

 KACC and KACSI (hereinafter referred to collectively as "Kaiser") object to the retrial on damages only ordered by the court on June 13, 1981 upon granting in part its motion for new trial. Kaiser contends that because it did not hear the evidence on liability, the damage jury was unable to determine which, if any, of the losses that Columbia suffered were actually caused by the antitrust violation. That such causation was required is clear. Brunswick Corp. v. Pueblo Bowl-O-Mat, Inc., 429 U.S. 477, 489, 50 L. Ed. 2d 701, 97 S. Ct. 690 (1977) ("Plaintiffs must prove antitrust injury, which is to say injury of the type . . . that flows from that which makes defendants' acts unlawful. . . ."). However, the retrial procedure utilized did not in and of itself preclude rational jury determination of damages caused by the antitrust violations found by the previous jury. *fn1"

 The Third Circuit has expressly approved the use of a retrial on antitrust damages in Pitchford v. PEPI, Inc., 531 F.2d 92 (3d Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 426 U.S. 935, 49 L. Ed. 2d 387, 96 S. Ct. 2649 (1976); other cases in the Third Circuit are collected in plaintiffs' brief at Appendix C. *fn2" In that case the Court of Appeals found legal error in plaintiff's calculations of damages and remanded to the district court for a new trial on damages only. 531 F.2d at 107-09. We cannot presume that the Court of Appeals ordered a procedure that was per se violative of the rights of antitrust defendants. Pueblo, supra was decided after Pitchford, supra, but it was not the first case to hold that damages must be caused by defendant's antitrust violations and it may be assumed that the Court of Appeals was cognizant of a causation requirement when Pitchford was decided. Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 395 U.S. 100, 23 L. Ed. 2d 129, 89 S. Ct. 1562 (1969), for example, decided years before the remand for a damage trial in Pitchford, referred explicitly to the "necessary causal relation between the [violator's] conduct and the claimed damages. . . ." Zenith, supra at 125.

 Defendants never requested that special interrogatories as to the alleged anticompetitive acts complained of by plaintiffs be submitted to the liability jury. (Defendants' Brief at 14-15, 23-24). Kaiser claims that the damage jury could not know which of the five alleged anticompetitive practices complained of by plaintiffs were actually relied upon by the jury that found it liable. But plaintiffs' economist did not attempt to and did not have to distinguish between actual losses caused by the various types of anticompetitive practices. Whether plaintiffs' losses were caused by one or more of the anticompetitive acts was immaterial on the damages issue so long as the jury was presented with competent evidence to prove the extent of plaintiffs' losses caused by Kaiser's impairment of the free and open market in aluminum culvert pipe. Plaintiffs' evidence was so directed. (See, e.g., N.T. 509, 542, 548, 596). The charge to the jury made clear that the jury could only award damages for injury caused by Kaiser's conduct in the market:

 
Similarly it follows from that that you should not award plaintiffs damages for losses caused not by Kaiser but by conditions in the economy in general or a recession in the construction industry, aluminum shortage, a lack of price protection for long-term requirement contracts.
 
You may also consider whether or not plaintiffs' calculations should have taken into account poor business judgment or poor management. Some corporations suffer losses solely because of their own inadequate financial capitalization. You can't award plaintiffs damages for all its losses if you find that Columbia was under capitalized, that is that there was a lack of sufficient working capital and that losses were suffered as a result of that, because under such circumstances Columbia's financial inadequacies rather than Kaiser's conduct would have caused some portion of the losses.

 (N.T. 1531-32).

 Even if there were a serious question raised as to the propriety of a new trial on damages only, defendants waived objection to this procedure. Before issuing the June 17, 1981 Order granting the retrial, defendants spoke in favor of the concept. Addressing the court's question during supplemental oral argument on the post-trial motions on December 29, 1980, counsel for Kaiser stated:

 
. . . With respect to the grant of a new trial with respect to damages alone, obviously, in our submission, the cases would support that kind of remedy.
 
As to the mechanics upon the new trial, it seems to me, Your Honor, that there would, of necessity, simply be more to the trial than a review of the charts, testimony of Dr. Kuehn, or whomever the plaintiff wished to put on as a fact witness or expert witness. It seems to me there are additional matters relevant to damages and the amount of damages which also go to questions of causation. Those, as we have addressed in our post-trial briefs, deal with conditions in the marketplace that may have impacted upon Columbia's volume of sales, and hence on the amount of profit that it would have earned even assuming the existence of violations of the antitrust laws by Kaiser which also impacted upon Columbia. . . .
 
With respect to liability, I believe that it would be sufficient to inform the jury that a verdict on liability has been established; that a jury has found that that violation of the antitrust laws caused some damage to Columbia, and it would be up to the jury to determine what the extent and amount of that damage was, and I believe that a trial could occur.

 Docket Entry No. 510, N.T. 406. Defendants, having supported a new trial on damages before the jury's award at such trial was known, should not be permitted to object to the procedure itself just because its outcome is not to their liking.

 But even if defendants are correct that a limited retrial on the issue of the amount of damages was so prejudicial to Kaiser as to constitute reversible error, the remedy can certainly not be a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of defendants; at most defendants are entitled to a retrial on both liability and damages. That remedy does not lie with this court at this time. Following a bifurcated trial on liability and damages on remand from the Court of Appeals, this court denied a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict on liability; judgment notwithstanding the verdict was granted as to one item of damages in the amount of $157,000 and a new trial granted as to the award of damages for lost profits ($1,048,000) and destruction of Columbia as a going concern ($710,000). But, that new trial was as to damages only for the reasons stated in the court's Opinion of June 18, 1981. At this juncture, the power of this court is limited to granting a new trial again on damages only. This was called to the attention of counsel frequently in the course of the trial in trying to assure fair procedures and prevent yet another retrial. (N.T. 97-99; 976-978). Therefore, the court concludes that defendants' objections to a limited retrial on damages are only to preserve them for the Court of Appeals which, of course, has the power to order a new trial on liability and/or damages.

 JUDGMENT NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT

 The standard in this Circuit for the entry of judgment notwithstanding the verdict is clear. The court must interpret the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict winner, and may grant the motion only if that evidence and the reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom fail to support the verdict as a matter of law. Neville Chemical Co. v. Union Carbide Corp., 422 F.2d 1205, 1210 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 826, 27 L. Ed. 2d 55, 91 S. Ct. 51 (1970). See also, Hahn v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 625 F.2d 1095, 1098-99 (3d Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 981, 67 L. Ed. 2d 816, 101 S. Ct. 1516 (1981); Kademenos v. Equitable Life Assurance Society, 513 F.2d 1073, 1074 (3d Cir. 1975); 6A Moore's Federal Practice § 59.08[5] at 59-152 (1979). A directed verdict may be entered on only one or a combination of jury findings if a special verdict has been returned in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 49(a). See, Franklin Music Co. v. American Broadcasting Cos., Inc., et al, 616 F.2d 528 (3d Cir. 1979); Fox v. Kane-Miller Corp., 398 F. Supp. 609, 649 (D.Md. 1975), aff'd, 542 F.2d 915 (4th Cir. 1976).

 Defendants concede this standard but contend that the court should enter judgment n.o.v. because the verdict is contrary to the evidence and unsupported in the record; that is, there is but one reasonable conclusion as to the proper judgment. Defendants argue this persuasively and well. Defendants' brief makes an excellent closing speech to the jury; the problem is that the jury heard it and nonetheless decided for plaintiffs. With the exception of damages for loss of value of a going concern discussed below, there is no error of law during the trial or in the court's charge to the jury on damages (N.T. 554) that would justify setting aside that verdict. The charge was fair and clear although relatively brief because it commented little on the evidence argued in detail by able counsel for both sides. But it touched on and left to the jury all but one of the matters of which defendants now complain in asserting a right to judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

 The Supreme Court stated in Zenith, supra :

 
Trial and appellate courts alike must also observe the practical limits of the burden of proof, which may be demanded of a treble damage plaintiff who seeks recovery for injuries from a partial or total exclusion from a market; damage issues in these cases are rarely susceptible of the kind of concrete, detailed proof of injury which is available in other contexts.

 395 U.S. at 123. Accordingly, in an antitrust case, damages need not be proven with exactness or precision; rather, "the wrongdoer shall bear the risk of uncertainty which his own wrong has created." Bigelow v. RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., 327 U.S. 251, 264, 90 L. Ed. 652, 66 S. Ct. 574 (1946). The court does not have the prerogative of drawing inferences from facts within the exclusive province of the jury that are contrary to its findings without usurping the functions of the jury as a fact finding body. Story Parchment Co. v. Paterson Parchment Paper Co., 282 U.S. 555, 566, 75 L. Ed. 544, 51 S. Ct. 248 (1931). It was for the jury to determine the weight of the evidence and the credit to be given the witnesses, expert or otherwise; it has given its verdict accordingly. To set this verdict aside except for clear error of law would impermissibly intrude on the role of the jury in an antitrust trial.

 DUPLICATION OF ACTUAL LOSSES AND LOST PROFITS

 Kaiser contends that the award for hypothetical lost profits (Int. 2) duplicates the award for actual losses (Int. 1). Kaiser argues that these two types of losses are "irreconcilably contradictory and mutually exclusive." (Defendants' Brief at 64). See, William Goldman Theatres, Inc. v. Loew's, Inc., 69 F. Supp. 103, 105 (E.D.Pa. 1946) aff'd, 164 F.2d 1021 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 334 U.S. 811, 92 L. Ed. 1742, 68 S. Ct. 1016 (1948). In William Goldman Theatres, the plaintiff was unable to obtain first-run movies for his leased theater because of defendants' conspiracy to restrain trade. 150 F.2d 738, 742 (3d Cir. 1945). The district court declined to award out-of-pocket expenses actually incurred by plaintiff in connection with an alternative use of the premises in addition to the lost profits from the hypothetical operation of the business from which plaintiff was excluded by defendant's conduct. 69 F. Supp. at 105. Plaintiff's actual losses from the ineffective effort to mitigate damages were not causally connected with the losses from the intended use for which antitrust damages were awarded. See, 69 F. Supp. at 105.

 However, Columbia was in business throughout the damage period as a culvert fabricator and distributor. To the extent it would have made profits in a free and open market, the antitrust laws provide compensation. Columbia incurred actual losses while running the business it contended it would have operated profitably but for the illegal conduct of the defendants. Plaintiffs' damages would have been reduced had Columbia actually made a profit during the damages period, and so plaintiffs may recover the net losses that were actually incurred in addition to the profits they would have made. Had Columbia made a profit, that sum would have been subtracted from hypothetical lost profits to arrive at the true measure of harm to Columbia. Pitchford, supra at 109. But plaintiffs suffered a loss rather than a profit and are entitled to subtract this negative figure from the hypothetical lost profits proved. (See, N.T. 55-56). The resulting calculation, the addition of actual losses to lost profits, is necessary to make plaintiffs whole.

 LOST PROFITS ON ALUMINUM CULVERT PIPE

 Plaintiffs utilized a market share theory to calculate their hypothetical lost profits during the damage period. Plaintiffs' expert economist, Dr. Gary Bowman, calculated the amount of aluminum culvert pipe actually sold in the relevant market and then calculated the proportion of sales Columbia would have made absent an antitrust violation. He sought to establish the number of pounds of culvert Columbia would have sold in a free and open market and multiplied that number by the estimated revenues Columbia would have received per pound. From this estimate of gross revenues he subtracted his estimate of Columbia's total expenses if there had been a free and open market. This type of analysis is proper in a case in which plaintiffs were deprived from competing freely in a particular product and geographic market, and the injured party need not produce the "kind of concrete, detailed proof of injury which is available in other contexts." Zenith, supra 395 U.S. at 116, 123-35.

 An expert opinion on relevant damages issues is not enough to satisfy the plaintiffs' burden on damages unless that opinion is based on relevant data and the assumptions behind the opinion are shown to be realistic so that the jury has a rational basis for its decision. In re IBM Peripheral EDP Devices Antitrust Litigation, 481 F. Supp. 965, 1012, 1020 (N.D.Calif. 1979). Plaintiffs presented expert testimony on all elements of the market share theory, their estimates of the size of the local market at issue, Columbia's share of the local and non-local markets assuming free and open ...


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