MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 1959 petitioner, Clyde A. Perkins, brought this civil antitrust action against the Standard Oil Company of California seeking treble damages under § 2 of the Clayton Act, as amended by the Robinson-Patman Act,
Petitioner Perkins entered the oil and gasoline business in 1928 as the operator of a single service station in the State of Washington. By the mid-1950's he had become one of the largest independent distributors of gasoline and oil in both Washington and Oregon. He was both a wholesaler, operating storage plants and trucking equipment, and a retailer through his own Perkins stations. From 1945 until 1957, Perkins purchased substantially all of his gasoline requirements from Standard. From 1955 to 1957 Standard charged Perkins a higher price for its gasoline and oil than Standard charged to its own Branded Dealers,
Many of the elements of liability on the part of Standard are not in dispute. Standard has admitted that it sold gasoline and oil to its Branded Dealers and to Signal Oil at discriminatorily lower prices than those at which it sold to Perkins. The Court of Appeals found that Standard's liability for the harm done Perkins by the favorable treatment of the Branded Dealers was beyond dispute. Of this aspect of the damages, the Court of Appeals said:
With regard to Perkins' damage resulting from Standard's discrimination in favor of Signal Oil, however, the Court of Appeals took a different view because of the following circumstances under which the discriminatory sales were made. Standard admittedly sold gasoline to Signal at a lower price than it sold to Perkins. Signal sold this Standard gasoline to Western Hyway, which in turn sold the Standard gasoline to Regal Stations Co., Perkins' competitor. Perkins alleged that the lower price charged Signal by Standard was passed on to Signal's subsidiary Western Hyway, and then to Western's subsidiary, Regal. Regal's stations were thus able to undersell Perkins' stations and, according to Perkins, the resulting competitive harm, along with that he suffered at the hands of Standard's favored Branded Dealers, destroyed his ability to compete and eventually forced him to sell what was left of his business. The Court of
We disagree with the Court of Appeals' conclusion that § 2 of the Clayton Act, as amended by the Robinson-Patman Act, does not apply to the damages suffered by Perkins as a result of the price advantage granted by Standard to Signal, then by Signal to Western, then by Western to Regal. The Act, in pertinent part, provides:
The Court of Appeals read this language as limiting "the distributing levels on which a supplier's price discrimination will be recognized as potentially injurious to competition." 396 F. 2d, at 812. According to that court, the coverage of the Act is restricted to injuries caused by an impairment of competition with (1) the seller
In FTC v. Fred Meyer, Inc., 390 U.S. 341 (1968), we held that a retailer who buys through a wholesaler could be considered a "customer" of the original supplier within the meaning of § 2 (d) of the Clayton Act, as amended by the Robinson-Patman Act, a section dealing with discrimination in promotional allowances which is closely analogous to § 2 (a) involved in this case. In Meyer, the Court stated that to read "customer" narrowly would be wholly untenable when viewed in light of the purposes of the Robinson-Patman Act. Similarly, to read "customer" more narrowly in this section than we did in the section involved in Meyer would allow price discriminators to avoid the sanctions of the Act by the simple expedient of adding an additional link to the distribution chain. Here, for example, Standard supplied gasoline and oil to Signal. Signal, allegedly because it furnished Standard with part of its vital supply of crude petroleum, was able to insist upon a discriminatorily lower price. Had Signal then sold its gas directly to the Regal stations, giving Regal stations a competitive advantage, there would be no question, even under the decision of the Court of Appeals in this case, that a clear violation of the Robinson-Patman Act had been committed. Instead of selling directly to the retailer
Before an injured party can recover damages under the Act, he must, of course, be able to show a causal connection between the price discrimination in violation of the Act and the injury suffered. This is true regardless of the "level" in the chain of distribution on which the injury occurs. The court below held that, as a matter of law, "Section 2 (a) of the Act does not recognize a causal connection, essential to liability, between a supplier's price discrimination and the trade practices of a customer as far removed on the distributive ladder as Regal was from Standard." 396 F. 2d, at 816. As we have noted above, we do not accept such an artificial limitation. If there is sufficient evidence in the record to support an inference of causation, the ultimate conclusion as to what that evidence proves is for the jury. Continental Co. v. Union Carbide, 370 U.S. 690, 700-701 (1962). Here the trial judge properly charged the jury that Perkins had the burden of showing that any damage to his business
One other minor group of damages was found to be improper by the Court of Appeals and we conclude that this ruling was also erroneous. Perkins submitted some evidence tending to show that he as an individual had suffered financial losses because the two failing Perkins corporations (Perkins of Washington and Perkins of Oregon) were unable to pay him agreed brokerage fees for securing gasoline, rental on leases of service stations, and other indebtedness. The Court of Appeals, in order to give guidance to the trial judge at the proposed new trial, noted that, in its opinion, these damages were not proximately caused by Standard's violations and that Perkins should not recover for these damages in a second trial. For this proposition the Court of Appeals cited Karseal Corp. v. Richfield Oil Corp., 221 F.2d 358, 363, which held that "the rule is that one who is only incidentally injured by a violation of the antitrust laws,— the bystander who was hit but not aimed at,—cannot recover against the violator." It is clear in this case, however, that Perkins was no mere innocent bystander; he was the principal victim of the price discrimination practiced by Standard. Since he was directly injured
Respondent has argued in its brief several minor trial rulings which it contends were in error. Most of these additional arguments were rejected by the Court of Appeals. We have examined the others and find them without merit. We therefore see no need to prolong this litigation which began nearly 10 years ago. The jury's verdict and judgment should be reinstated.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, with whom MR. JUSTICE STEWART joins, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I agree with the Court that the judgment of the Court of Appeals cannot be affirmed. But I cannot agree either with the broad, and somewhat vague, ground of decision chosen by the Court or with the conclusion that the jury verdict in this case must be reinstated.
As I view it, this case poses only a very narrow question. Respondent discriminated in price in favor of
Moreover, I see no reason for the Court to undertake the difficult task of sorting out all the other issues in this case. The Court of Appeals based its reversal solely on its view of the "fourth line injury" problem. Other issues were treated on the assumption that the case would have to go back for trial. The record in this case is long and complicated and we have no idea what
"(a) It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, either directly or indirectly, to discriminate in price between different purchasers of commodities of like grade and quality, where either or any of the purchases involved in such discrimination are in commerce, where such commodities are sold for use, consumption, or resale within the United States or any Territory thereof or the District of Columbia or any insular possession or other place under the jurisdiction of the United States, and where the effect of such discrimination may be substantially to lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly in any line of commerce, or to injure, destroy, or prevent competition with any person who either grants or knowingly receives the benefit of such discrimination, or with customers of either of them . . . ."