Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No Errors Made in Trial of Dealer’s Antitrust Claims Against Manufacturer, Other Dealers

This posting was written by Darius Sturmer, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

A federal district court committed no error in evidentiary rulings or jury instructions regarding the evidence of conspiracy in a trial of a truck dealer’s claims that a truck manufacturer had conspired with other dealers to restrain trade in violation of federal antitrust law, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has ruled in an unpublished opinion.

A jury verdict in the defendant’s favor (2009-1 Trade Cases ¶76,660) was upheld.

Evidentiary Rulings

Admission of evidence regarding other litigation ongoing against the complaining dealer, an arrest of its top salesman, and the dealer’s termination for misappropriation of trade secrets was proper, the court decided. That evidence was relevant to the defendant’s presentation of alternative causes for the dealer’s decline in sales, a central element of the case.

Although the court did not explain its exclusion of 15 depositions taken in an unrelated action, that decision was not an abuse of discretion, in the appellate court’s view. Introduction of that evidence would have caused undue delay in the presentation of evidence, confused the issues presented in the action, and wasted the time of the trial court and jury.

Jury Instructions

Regarding the jury instructions on evidence of conspiracy, the trial court complied with an earlier appellate decision in the same case in instructing the jury on direct and circumstantial evidence, the appellate court stated.

The trial court had not improperly limited the evidence that the jury could consider. Contrary to the complaining dealer’s assertion, the court was not required to instruct the jury that it must accept the dealer’s offering of direct evidence as sufficient and credible to determine that the manufacturer conspired to violate Sec. 1, the appellate court added.

The July 7 decision is Toledo Mack Sales & Service, Inc. v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 2010-1 Trade Cases ¶77,084.

Further information about the jury verdict appears in a June 30, 2009 posting on Trade Regulation Talk. Details of an earlier decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia—ruling that the dealer presented sufficient evidence of horizontal and vertical price fixing to send the matter to the jury—appears in a June 26, 2008 posting on Trade Regulation Talk.

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