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Bonjorno v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp.

December 27, 1984

BONJORNO, JOSEPH A., KERR, GEORGE M., AND CLISBY, BARBARA K., AS TRANSFEREES OF LIQUIDATION AND DISSOLUTION OF COLUMBIA METAL CULVERT CO., INC., A PPELLANTS AND CROSS-APPELLEES
v.
KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL CORPORATION, KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL SALES, INC., ROBERT A. KENNEDY AND KENNEDY CULVERT & SUPPLY COMPANY AND ROBERT KENNEDY, KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL CORPORATION AND KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL SALES, INC., APPELLEES AND CROSS-APPELLANTS



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Author: Seitz

Before: SEITZ, GIBBONS and ROSENN, Circuit Judges

Opinion OF THE COURT

SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

I.

The plaintiffs appeal from an order of the district court partially granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict which eliminated the largest element of the jury's damage award in an antitrust action. The defendants, Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation and Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Sales, Inc. (collectively "Kaiser") cross-appeal from a judgment entered after a special jury verdict finding them in violation of the antitrust laws. This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (1983).

II. BACKGROUND

The plaintiffs were the sole stockholders of the now defunct Columbia Metal Culvert Co., Inc. ("Columbia") which was at one time a fabricator of aluminum drainage pipe in Vineland, New Jersey. They allege that Kaiser monopolized the market for aluminum drainage pipe in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States in violation of sections one and two of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 2 (1983).

Columbia began to manufacture aluminum drainage pipe in 1962. Originally, Columbia purchased all of its raw materials from Kaiser. The raw material for manufacturing pipe comes in two primary forms: corrugated aluminum sheet which is rolled and riveted into pipe, and aluminum coil which is formed into helical pipe by a spiraling machine. Initially, Columbia purchased only sheet, but in 1970, it acquired a spiraling machine, and thereafter produced mostly pipe formed from coil.

In 1972, Columbia and Kaiser had a falling out, after which Kaiser no longer sold coil to Columbia, which thereafter purchased its raw materials from Alcoa and Reynolds. In 1973, Columbia's best salesman, Robert Kennedy, left Columbia to become an independant distributor of Kaiser's aluminum pipe. At the same time, Kaiser opened a pipe fabrication plant only a few miles from Columbia's. In 1974, Kaiser along with the other major aluminum producers raised the prices of aluminum coil and sheet to roughly the same price that Kaiser charged for the finished pipe. Throughout this period, Kaiser produced approximately 80% of all the aluminum pipe used in Columbia's geographical marketing region.

The plaintiffs allege that as a result of Kaiser's conduct, Columbia began experiencing financial difficulties, and stopped producing pipe in 1975. Eventually, Columbia's assets were sold to a third party in 1978. In 1981, the third party sold the remaining assets of Columbia to Kaiser.

This action was first filed in January of 1974 under section four of the Clayton Act, which gives a private cause of action under the antitrust laws, alleging, inter alia, violations of sections one and two of the Sherman Act. At the first trial in 1977, the district court directed a verdict for Kaiser at the conclusion of plaintiff's evidence. This court reversed, holding that there was sufficient evidence to permit the case to go to the jury. Columbia Metal Culvert Co., Inc. v. Kaiser Industries Corp., 579 F.2d 20 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 876, 58 L. Ed. 2d 190, 99 S. Ct. 214 (1978). A second trial held in 1979 resulted in a jury verdict for the plaintiffs and an award of damages. The district court, however, granted in part the defendants' post-trial motion for a new trial by ordering a trial on damages only. Bonjorno v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp., 518 F. Supp. 102 (E.D. Pa. 1981). A limited retrial was conducted in 1981, resulting in a damage award of $9,567,939 after trebling. The district court then granted, in part, the defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, reducing the judgment to $4,651,560.

The plaintiffs appeal the reduction of the damage award, and the defendants cross-appeal the failure of the district court to grant a new trial or to grant in full their motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. We turn first to the defendants' cross-appeal.

III. The Doctrine of Intra-Enterprise Conspiracy

The defendants contend that the jury verdict must be set aside and a new trial ordered because of the recent decision in Copperweld Corp. v. Independence Tube Co., 467 U.S. 752, 104 S. Ct. 2731, 81 L. Ed. 2d 628 (1984). In that case, the Supreme Court held that a parent corporation and its wholly owned subsidiary cannot be considered separate entitites for purposes of section one of the Sherman Act. Thus, a parent corporation and its wholly owned subsidiary cannot by themselves violate that provision which requires concerted action by at least two participants. Because the two entities in the section one claim in this case are the Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation ("KACC") and its wholly owned subsidiary Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc. ("KACSI"), the defendants contend that the finding of liability must be set aside if the Copperweld rationale is applicable to this case.

This court had previously held that the plaintiff could proceed with a section one claim based on a conspiracy between the parent KACC and its subsidiary KACSI. 579 F.2d at 33-35.After oral argument was heard on this appeal, the Supreme Court granted the petition for certiorari in the Copperweld case. The parties were asked to submit supplemental briefing on the potential effect of Copperweld.After due consideration, we decided to defer resolution of this appeal until after the Supreme Court decided Copperweld.

Having now considered the decision of the Supreme Court, we believe that it is unnecessary to reach the issue of the applicability of Copperweld because the damage award may be sustained solely on the separate section two verdicts that do not depend on a theory of intra-enterprise conspiracy. Kaiser contends that when a verdict may rest on either of two claims, one supported by the evidence and the other not, a judgment thereon must be reversed. See Simko v. C & C Marine Maintenance Co., 594 F.2d 960 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 833, 62 L. Ed. 2d 42, 100 S. Ct. 64 (1979). The case that Kaiser cites, Simko, rested on a general verdict in which it is impossible to determine if a jury found the defendant liable on both grounds or only one ground. In this case, special interrogatories were submitted to the jury on each of the theories of liability, and the jury determined that the defendants violated both section one and section two of the Sherman Act. Under these circumstances, we are not required to remand for a new trial solely because the section one claim may be invalid.

The defendants argue, however, that the causation of damages from the monopolization and attempt to monopolize verdicts are also tainted by the theory of intra-enterprise conspiracy.The jury returned separate verdicts against the defendants for monopolization, attempt to monopolize, and conspiracy to monopolize under section two. Although the conspiracy verdict, which depended upon an intra-enterprise conspiracy, was separately rendered, only a single interrogatory was asked as to causation of injury. The jury answered "yes" to the question: "[W]as any such defendants' monopoly, conspiracy to monopolize, or attempt to monopolize as found by you a material and proximate cause of any injury to the business or property of the plaintiff?"

The defendants contend that Copperweld must necessarily apply to a section two conspiracy to monopolize, and since the jury was not asked separate questions on proximate cause, it is impossible to determine if the jury found that the injuries were caused by an impermissible theory of liability. The defendants' contentions succeed only if it were possible that the jury could infer that some of the plaintiffs' injuries resulted soley from the conspiracy and not from the monopolization or attempt to monopolize. Assuming without deciding that Copperweld applies to a section two conspiracy, we conclude that it was not possible for a reasonable jury in this case to find that injury was caused by conduct pursuant to the conspiracy that was not also conduct pursuant to the conspiracy that was not also conduct in furtherance of the monopolization or the attempt to monopolize.

Specific intent is an element of a conspiracy to monopolize. Times-Picayune Publishing Co., v. United States, 345 U.S. 594, 626, 97 L. Ed. 1277, 73 S. Ct. 872 (1953); Fleer Corp. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 658 F.2d 139, 154 (3d Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 1019, 72 L. Ed. 2d 137, 102 S. Ct. 1715 (1982). Because the jury was charged that it had to find that there was a specific intent to monopolize before returning a verdict on conspiracy to monopolize, the jury necessarily found that both the parent KACC and the subsidiary KACSI had the specific intent to monopolize the aluminum pipe market. Thus any concerted activity undertaken in the conspiracy that could give rise to damages would have been undertaken with the purpose of monopolization. Because the conspiracy defendants are the same defendants in the monopolization and attempt to monopolize charges, any activity in the conspiracy, which must have had the purpose of monopolization, would necessarily be attributable to the same defendants as part of the monopolization or attempt to monopolize.

Furthermore, the defendants do not point to any evidence in the record that evinces actions in the conspiracy that could give rise to damages and that are not necessarily part of the attempt to monopolize or the monopolization. Thus, under the particular circumstances of this case, we conclude that the jury verdict and award of damages would be the same even if the jury had not been instructed that KACC and KACSI could be considered separate entities.

IV. The Monopolization Claim

A. The Effect of This Court's Decision in 1977

We next turn to Kaiser's contention that is motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict should have been granted because the evidence was insufficient to support the claim of monopolization or attempt to monopolize. The plaintiffs argue that Kaiser may no longer raise this issue because this court had determined on the appeal from the first trial that there was sufficient evidence of monopolization to go to the jury. Columbia Metal Culvert Co. v. Kaiser Industries Corp., 579 F.2d 20 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 876, 58 L. Ed. 2d 190, 99 S. Ct. 214 (1978).

The evidence presented at the liability 1979 trial, however, differed in several material respects from the evidence presented at the first 1977 trial. In particular, the plaintiffs' evidence at the later 1979 trial significantly undercut the economic significance of the facts that the parent KACC charged its subsidiary KACSI a price for aluminum sheet and coil that was below the market price while at the same time KASCI was selling coil to independent pipe fabricators at the higher market price. Kaiser's ...


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