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Nbo Industries Treadway Companies Inc. v. Brunswick Corp.

August 29, 1975

NBO INDUSTRIES TREADWAY COMPANIES, INC., NATIONAL BOWL-O-MAT CORPORATION, PUEBLO BOWL-O-MAT, INC., BOWL-O-MAT PARAMUS OPERATIONS, HOLIDAY BOWL-O-MAT, INC., SAGINAW BOWL-O-MAT, INC., PARADISE BOWL-O-MAT, INC., MUNCIE BOWL-O-MAT, INC., SKORE LANES BOWL-O-MAT, INC., MINNEAPOLIS BOWL-O-MAT, INC., DES MOINES BOWL-O-MAT, INC., AND INDIANAPOLIS BOWL-O-MAT, INC.,
v.
BRUNSWICK CORPORATION, DANIEL LIEBLICH AND REUBEN DANKOFF BRUNSWICK CORPORATION, APPELLANT IN NO. 74-2127 PUEBLO BOWL-O-MAT, INC., HOLIDAY BOWL-O-MAT, INC., AND BOWL-O-MAT PARAMUS OPERATIONS, APPELLANTS IN NO. 74-2128 BRUNSWICK CORPORATION, APPELLANT IN NO. 75-1152



APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (D.C. Civil No. 595-66).

Staley, Gibbons and Weis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Gibbons

Opinion OF THE COURT

GIBBONS, Circuit Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

We have before us appeals and cross-appeals from a final judgment entered in a private antitrust case. The following determinations in the district court are being challenged: (1) the finding of a violation of § 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 18; (2) the correctness of the trial judge's calculation of attorney fees and costs; and (3) the propriety of the trial judge's entry of a divestiture order in a private antitrust case.*fn1

The complaint in this complicated litigation was filed on June 14, 1966 by Treadway Companies, Inc. (then known as National Bowl-O-Mat Corp.) and ten wholly-owned subsidiaries*fn2 through which it operated bowling centers throughout the United States. The plaintiffs charged Brunswick Corporation (Brunswick), a manufacturer and distributor of bowling equipment, with: (1) entering into resale price maintenance contracts in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1 (First Claim); (2) monopolizing and attempting to monopolize the business of operating bowling centers in various markets in which Treadway operated competing centers, thus violating § 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2 (Second Claim); and (3) acquiring and operating bowling centers in the Poughkeepsie, New York, Pueblo, Colorado, and Paramus, New Jersey market areas which had the effect of substantially lessening competition or tending to create a monopoly in violation of § 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 18 (Third Claim). During a pre-trial conference held on March 6, 1973, the Sherman Act § 1 claim was abandoned. The § 2 Sherman Act claim and the § 7 Clayton Act claim went to trial. The jury returned a verdict in Brunswick's favor on the Sherman Act claim. No appeal has been taken from this determination. However, the jury found in favor of three of the plaintiffs - Pueblo Bowl-O-Mat, Inc., Holiday Bowl-O-Mat, Inc., and Bowl-O-Mat Paramus Operations - on the § 7 Clayton Act claim. Damages were awarded in the following amounts:

(1) Pueblo Bowl-O-Mat,

Inc., Pueblo, Colorado $964,830

(2) Holiday Bowl-O-Mat,

Inc., Poughkeepsie,

New York $298,800

(3) Bowl-O-Mat Paramus

Operations, Paramus,

New Jersey $1,094,400

Pursuant to § 4 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 15, the district court trebled each of these awards, and on May 31, 1973 entered judgment on the damage claims for $7,074,090. As a result of Brunswick's post-trial motions, which were in all other respects denied, the district court granted a new trial as to Pueblo Bowl-O-Mat, Inc., unless Pueblo consented to a remittitur of $499,050. Treadway Cos., Inc. v. Brunswick Corp., 364 F. Supp. 316, 326 (D.N.J. 1973) (decision on post-trial motions). Pueblo did consent, and on October 5, 1973 an order was entered reducing Pueblo's treble damage recovery to $2,395,440. Thus the total damage award was $6,575,040. The district court also considered plaintiffs' application for an award of costs and attorney fees. On April 2, 1974 judgment was entered in the district court awarding $428,468 as attorney fees, and $18,509.32 as costs. On September 24, 1974, after the appeals both by plaintiffs and Brunswick from this award were dismissed by this court,*fn3 the district court entered an order pursuant to Rule 54(b), Fed. R. Civ. P. directing the following: (1) that the May 31, 1973 judgment, and the October 5, 1973 and April 2, 1974 orders, be entered as final; (2) that the entries be made nunc pro tunc as of their original dates for the purpose of fixing the time from which interest at the legal rate would accrue; (3) that the entries be made as of September 24, 1974 for the purpose of taking any appeals. The district court retained jurisdiction over the claim for equitable relief pursuant to § 16 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 26.

Brunswick appeals from the damage award of $6,575,040; from the award of attorney fees and costs; and from the district court's decision awarding interest from the time of the original judgment and order rather than from the time of the Rule 54(b) certification. Brunswick does not dispute the amount of the award of attorney fees and costs assuming the jury verdict is allowed to stand. It contends, however, that if the verdict is set aside the award of fees and costs must also be set aside. Treadway appeals from the calculation of the fee award contending that it was too low.

On November 15, 1974, the district court filed an opinion,*fn4 and on January 9, 1975 entered a final judgment, pursuant to § 16 of the Clayton Act, enjoining Brunswick from acquiring any existing bowling centers in the Pueblo, Paramus and Poughkeepsie/Wappingers Falls areas and ordering divestiture of centers previously acquired in those areas. Brunswick filed an appeal from this judgment. On February 14, 1975 this court entered an order directing that Brunswick's appeal from the injunction and divestiture judgment (No. 75-1152) be consolidated with Brunswick's other appeal (No. 74-2127) and with plaintiffs' cross-appeal (No. 74-2128).

Brunswick's contentions, listed below in the order in which they shall be considered, present these questions:

(A) With respect to the jury verdict :

(1) Does the record establish a prima facie violation of § 7 of the Clayton Act by Brunswick?

(2) Are treble damages pursuant to § 4 of the Clayton Act recoverable by litigants in the plaintiffs' positions solely for a violation of § 7 of the Clayton Act?

(3) Did the court properly instruct the jury as to the elements of a Clayton Act § 7 case?

(4) Was the jury properly instructed on § 4 damages?

(B) With respect to the injunction and divestiture order :

(1) Was there evidence in the record sufficient to support the court's finding of a Clayton Act § 7 violation?

(2) Does § 16 of the Clayton Act authorize the entry of a divestiture order, at the insistence of a private litigant, to redress a violation of Clayton Act § 7?

Plaintiffs' main contention on their cross-appeal is that the criteria for fee awards laid down in Lindy Brothers Builders, Inc. v. American Radiator & Standard Sanitary Corp., 487 F.2d 161 (3d Cir. 1973) and reiterated in Merola v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 493 F.2d 292 (3d Cir. 1974), while properly applied by the district court, have no place in fully litigated antitrust actions. Rather, it is argued that these criteria should be applied only in class action settlements.

Virtually all of the issues before us are of first impression in this circuit and many are of first impression nationally. The antitrust questions arise because of the unique interaction among the Clayton Act § 7 which proscribes acquisitions having an effect which " may. . . substantially . . . lessen competition, or . . . tend to create a monopoly" and the private remedy provisions of § 4 and § 16 of the same act. A statutory prohibition aimed neither at existing conspiracies nor restraints, nor at existing or attempted monopolizations, but at incipient tendencies, presents problems of private enforcement not frequently encountered. Indeed this is perhaps the first case in which an award of money damages has been made to a private plaintiff for an alleged violation of § 7. Thus the district court was exploring largely virgin antitrust territory. Certain errors were committed in this new territory which warrant a new trial. Reconsideration of the fee award will be required as well.

II. THE INDUSTRY BACKGROUND

Brunswick is one of the two largest manufacturers, distributors and financiers of bowling alley equipment in the United States. Its chief competitor is the American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF), a company about equal in size. Prior to 1964 Brunswick supplied the bowling recreation industry with large quantities of equipment such as lanes and automatic pinsetters. Since this equipment required a substantial capital investment Brunswick also financed the equipment on extended secured credit terms. In the early 1960's, however, the bowling recreation industry went into a sharp decline. The plaintiffs attribute this decline to overexpansion in the industry. They blame Brunswick for this overexpansion, claiming that it financed too many centers, and in particular, that it saturated certain areas with facilities so as to make competitive success impossible.

Simultaneously with the decline in the industry there occurred a collection problem. Defaults on equipment loans became commonplace. Numerous bowling center proprietors were in such hopeless financial straits that it became clear that there was no reasonable prospect of payment. Exercising its chattel security rights, Brunswick made numerous repossessions, and attempted to dispose of the repossessed equipment at discount prices. Such sales, however, did not keep pace with repossessions. Brunswick's efforts to lease repossessed lanes to new independent proprietors proved unsuccessful. Over the years Brunswick had borrowed close to $300 million in order to finance the manufacture and sale of bowling equipment. By late 1964 its receivables were in excess of $400 million of which more than $100 million dollars were over 90 days delinquent. Brunswick was clearly in serious financial difficulty.

In an effort to reverse its deteriorating condition, Brunswick's management decided on a plan. In those cases in which attempts to collect receivables failed, it would repossess the equipment and attempt to sell it in place to third parties. If no sale could be effected Brunswick would then consider operating the failing centers itself if there appeared to be any reasonable prospect that a positive cash flow would result.

In January 1965 Brunswick formed a Bowling Center Operations Division (BCOD) charged with the responsibility of evaluating centers and operating those which could produce a positive cash flow. This development was disclosed by Brunswick's president to a meeting of the ...


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