MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a private treble damage action under the antitrust laws.
Vanadium is a metal obtained from certain ores which, in this country, are mined principally on the Colorado plateau. The ore is processed at mills near the mines into a substance commonly known as vanadium oxide. The oxide is then transported to the East and converted into ferrovanadium,
The defendants named in the complaint were Vanadium Corporation of America (VCA), a fully integrated miner and manufacturer of vanadium products, Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation (Carbide), and the following four wholly owned subsidiary corporations of the latter company: United States Vanadium Corporation (USV), engaged in mining vanadium ore and processing vanadium oxide; Electro Metallurgical Company (Electro Met), engaged in making ferrovanadium; Electro Metallurgical Sales Corporation (Electro Met Sales), engaged in the sale of vanadium oxide and ferrovanadium; and Electro Metallurgical Company of Canada, Ltd. (Electro Met of Canada), engaged in selling vanadium products in Canada. The complaint was filed on November 15,
The complaint alleged that, beginning in about 1933, the defendants and others acting in concert with them violated §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act
According to the complaint, as a proximate consequence of defendants' monopolistic and restrictive practices, independent producers and distributors of ferrovanadium and vanadium oxide, including Continental, were eliminated from the business. Specifically, the complaint detailed several efforts which Continental made to enter and maintain itself in the vanadium business, all of which were allegedly frustrated by defendants' Sherman Act violations: (1) In 1938, Continental negotiated a contract with Apex Smelting Company of Chicago whereby Apex was to build and operate a plant for the conversion of oxide to ferrovanadium by use of the aluminothermic process. Continental and Apex were to share the profits of this venture. On its part, Continental agreed to obtain raw materials for Apex and to sell the finished product. Operations under this contract began in the spring of 1940, but Apex terminated the agreement in 1942 allegedly because the illegal activities of defendants prevented the obtaining of a sufficient supply of vanadium oxide. (2) Meanwhile, Continental itself had begun to produce a compound called "Van-Ex," composed of vanadium oxide and other materials, which was designed for direct introduction into the steel-making process without prior conversion to ferrovanadium. This venture was allegedly
Trial was to a jury and a verdict was returned for defendants. Continental appealed, asserting error in the trial court's exclusion of various evidentiary items, in certain of the instructions given to the jury, in the refusal to give other instructions, and in other rulings of the trial court. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit announced that its task was to review the correctness of the judgment below, not the reasons therefor, and on that basis affirmed the judgment, 289 F.2d 86, holding that there was insufficient evidence to justify a jury finding
The Court of Appeals was, of course, bound to view the evidence in the light most favorable to Continental and to give it the benefit of all inferences which the evidence fairly supports, even though contrary inferences might reasonably be drawn.
Continental's fundamental claim throughout was that inadequate supplies of vanadium oxide were available to it and its associates, and that respondents' alleged Sherman Act violations caused or contributed to this shortage. The Court of Appeals acknowledged the principle in antitrust cases that "where the plaintiff proves a loss, and a violation by defendant of the antitrust laws of such a nature as to be likely to cause that type of loss, there are cases which say that the jury, as the trier of the facts, must be permitted to draw from this circumstantial evidence the inference that the necessary causal relation exists."
The court then examined seriatim the Apex, Van-Ex, Climax, Canadian and Imperial ventures and ruled separately upon the respondents' alleged damage to Continental in connection with each of these episodes. As to Apex and Imperial, it was said that Continental's demands for oxide from respondents were not sufficiently contemporaneous with the failure of these ventures to subject respondents to liability. As to the Van-Ex period, respondents were blameless not because oxide had not been requested from them but because Continental failed, in the court's view, to exhaust at least one other available source. The Canadian and Climax issues were disposed of on different grounds.
It is apparent from the foregoing that the Court of Appeals approached Continental's claims as if they were five completely separate and unrelated lawsuits. We
Furthermore, we do not believe that respondents' liability under the antitrust laws can be measured by any rigid or mechanical formula requiring Continental both to demand materials from respondents and to exhaust all other sources of supply. The Court of Appeals appears to have accorded no weight to Continental's evidence which was offered to show that respondents had interfered with, acquired, or destroyed the several small independent sources of vanadium oxide relied upon by Continental. Under the criteria used by the Court of Appeals, respondents could, with impunity, concertedly refuse to deal with Continental while the latter was able to obtain some oxide from independent sources, then proceed at their leisure to dry up those other sources, and finally insist that Continental make repeated demands for respondents' oxide before incurring antitrust liability. The cases relied upon by the Court of Appeals
Our review of the record discloses sufficient evidence for a jury to infer the necessary causal connection between respondents' antitrust violations and petitioners' injury. In concluding that Continental and Apex had not made sufficient efforts to obtain vanadium oxide from respondents, the Court of Appeals either overlooked or interpreted into insignificance the repeated approaches made to respondents by Continental and Apex in July and October of 1939, in March and October of 1940 and in June and July of 1941. The court also failed to notice certain communications from Apex in September and December 1941, saying that it could operate at only partial capacity due to the lack of raw materials. Nor did the court mention the testimony of an officer of Apex to the effect that Apex's supply of oxide was irregular and intermittent and that the unavailability of oxide was one of the reasons that Apex did not operate at full capacity. According to the Court of Appeals, the "critical period" during which Continental and Apex should have demanded materials from the respondents was the year preceding the termination of the Apex contract, which the court placed in June 1942. But it is quite plain from the record that Apex notified Continental of its determination to terminate the contract in January and February of 1942, which followed much more closely the previous refusals of respondents to deal with Continental and Apex.
Undoubtedly, all of the evidence during this period does not point in one direction and different inferences might reasonably be drawn from it. There was, however, sufficient evidence to go to the jury and it is the jury
During the so-called Van-Ex period, the court did not exculpate respondents because of petitioners' failure to request oxide from them but because petitioners supposedly failed to take advantage of an independent source of supplies. But the evidence relied upon by the court can just as reasonably be read in a manner favorable to Continental and it appears that the court may have misapprehended significant parts of this record.
The Court of Appeals also concluded that the respondents did not contribute to the failure of Imperial to produce ferrovanadium under its contract with Continental. The court acknowledged, and there appears to be substantial evidence to this effect, that Imperial's decision was based upon its concern about a steady and reliable
Continental's alleged elimination from the Canadian market raises different issues. At the trial Continental introduced evidence to show that beginning in March 1942, it had shipped Van-Ex to a Canadian customer each month during the remainder of that year. There was then received in evidence a letter dated January 19, 1943, from Continental to Electro Met in New York City reciting that the new allocation system in Canada
Respondents say that American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347, shields them from liability. This Court there held that an antitrust plaintiff could not collect damages from a defendant who had allegedly influenced a foreign government to seize plaintiff's properties. But in the light of later cases in this Court respondents' reliance upon American Banana is misplaced. A conspiracy to monopolize or restrain the domestic or foreign commerce of the United States is not outside the reach of the Sherman Act just because part of the conduct complained of occurs in foreign countries. United States v. American Tobacco Co., 221 U.S. 106; United States v. Pacific & Arctic R. & Navigation Co., 228 U.S. 87; Thomsen v. Cayser, 243 U.S. 66; United States v. Sisal Sales Corp., 274 U.S. 268. Cf. Steele v. Bulova Watch Co., 344 U.S. 280; Branch v. Federal Trade Comm'n, 141 F.2d 31
Furthermore, in the Sisal case, supra, a combination entered into within the United States to monopolize an article of commerce produced abroad was held to violate the Sherman Act even though the defendants' control of that production was aided by discriminatory legislation of the foreign country which established an official agency as the sole buyer of the product from the producers and even though one of the defendants became the exclusive selling agent of that governmental authority. Since the activities of the defendants had an impact within the United States and upon its foreign trade, American Banana was expressly held not to be controlling.
From the evidence which petitioners offered it appears that Continental complained to the Canadian Metals Controller that Continental had lost its Canadian business. The Controller referred Continental to one of the respondents. But there is no indication that the Controller or any other official within the structure of the Canadian Government approved or would have approved of joint efforts to monopolize the production and sale of vanadium or directed that purchases from Continental be stopped. The exclusion, Continental claims, resulted from the action of Electro Met of Canada, taken within the area of its discretionary powers granted by the Metals Controller and in concert with or under the direction of the respondents. The offer of proof at least presented an issue for the jury's resolution as to whether the loss of Continental's Canadian business was occasioned by respondents' activities. Respondents are afforded no
The case of Eastern Railroad Presidents Conf. v. Noerr Motor Freight, Inc., 365 U.S. 127, cited by the court below and much relied upon by respondents here, is plainly inapposite. The Court there held not cognizable under the Sherman Act a complaint charging, in essence, that the defendants had engaged in a concerted publicity campaign to foster the adoption of laws and law enforcement practices inimical to plaintiff's business. Finding no basis for imputing to the Sherman Act a purpose to regulate political activity, a purpose which would have encountered serious constitutional barriers, the Court ruled the defendants' activities to be outside the ban of the Act "at least insofar as those activities comprised mere solicitation of governmental action with respect to the passage and enforcement of laws." 365 U. S., at 138. In this case, respondents' conduct is wholly dissimilar to that of the defendants in Noerr. Respondents were engaged in private commercial activity, no element of which involved seeking to procure the passage or enforcement of laws. To subject them to liability under the Sherman Act for eliminating a competitor from the Canadian market by exercise of the discretionary power
Since our decision concerning the alleged loss of Continental's Canadian business will in any event require a new trial of the entire case in view of the close interconnection between the Canadian and domestic issues, we shall remand the case to the District Court for further proceedings. We therefore deem it appropriate to pass upon certain of the alleged trial errors raised by Continental in the Court of Appeals but not considered by that court. In passing upon these issues, we are not to be understood as expressing any views on the merits of those matters raised by Continental before the Court of Appeals but not discussed here.
An error committed by the trial court, perhaps understandable because the trial preceded this Court's decision in Klor's, Inc., v. Broadway-Hale Stores, Inc., 359 U.S. 207, was the "public injury" charge. Although petitioners pleaded a concerted refusal to deal with them by respondents, a price-fixing conspiracy, and an allocation of customers, all per se violations under § 1 of the Sherman Act, the court charged the jury that a conspiracy must be proved "which was reasonably calculated to prejudice the public interest by unduly" restraining trade, and which was intended "to injure the general public by" restraining trade. Under the rule stated in Klor's, this charge was error.
The trial court also erred in its treatment of monopolization. Initially, in its charge to the jury, the court defined "monopolize" as referring to "the joint acquisition or maintenance by the members of the conspiracy formed for that purpose, of the power to control and dominate
Petitioners' complaint did not preclude reliance on unilateral monopolization and the evidence offered was relevant and material to such a charge. The trial court's misinterpretation of the law in defining "monopolization" and "attempted monopolization" in terms of "conspiracy to monopolize" was therefore prejudicial rather than harmless. This error should not be repeated in a new trial.
The trial court further erred in its persistent exclusion of evidence relating to the pre-1938 period, on the ground that since Mr. Leir came to this country in 1938 nothing which transpired earlier could be relevant to his suit. Petitioners sought to introduce evidence that the conspiracy and monopolization alleged began in the early 1930's, that overt acts in furtherance thereof
We conclude that the judgment of the Court of Appeals must be vacated and the case remanded to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
"Any person who shall be injured in his business or property by reason of anything forbidden in the antitrust laws may sue therefor in any district court of the United States . . . and shall recover threefold the damages by him sustained, and the cost of suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee."
"Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be illegal . . . .
"Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor . . . ."
The same rule governs in ruling upon motions for directed verdict in treble damage suits under the antitrust laws. Schad v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 136 F.2d 991, 993 (C. A. 3d Cir.); Wisconsin Liquor Co. v. Park & Tilford Distillers Corp., 267 F.2d 928, 930 (C. A. 7th Cir.). Cf. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655; Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 473.
"Here we have a contract, combination and conspiracy entered into by parties within the United States and made effective by acts done therein. The fundamental object was control of both importation and sales of sisal and complete monopoly of both internal and external trade and commerce therein. The United States complain of a violation of their laws within their own territory by parties subject to their jurisdiction, not merely of something done by another government at the instigation of private parties. True, the conspirators were aided by discriminating legislation, but by their own deliberate acts, here and elsewhere, they brought about forbidden results within the United States. They are within the jurisdiction of our courts and may be punished for offenses against our laws." 274 U. S., at 275-276.