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Sunkist Growers, Inc. v. Winckler & Smith, 370 U.S. 19 (1962)

Sunkist Growers, Inc. v. Winckler & Smith Citrus Products Co.

No. 241

Argued March 21-22, 1962

Decided May 28, 1962

370 U.S. 19


A group of citrus fruit growers in California and Arizona organized local cooperative associations which joined together for the purpose of collectively marketing their fruit through the agency of an area-wide marketing cooperative and two processing cooperatives. Respondents sued petitioners, the area-wide cooperative and one of the processing cooperatives, for treble damages under § 4 of the Clayton Act, claiming that they had conspired with the other processing cooperative and two privately owned processing corporations to restrain and monopolize interstate trade in citrus fruit and by-products, and had actually monopolized the same, in violation of §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.

Held: In view of the exemption from the antitrust laws accorded to agricultural cooperatives by § 6 of the Clayton Act and §1 of the Capper-Volstead Act, 7 U.S.C. § 291, a judgment based on a general verdict against petitioners, which may have rested on a finding of an unlawful conspiracy among the three cooperatives, must be reversed. Pp. 370 U. S. 20-30.

(a) The instructions in this case left it open for the jury to base its verdict on a finding of a conspiracy among the marketing cooperative and the two processing cooperatives. Pp. 370 U. S. 25-26.

(b) On the record in this case, it cannot be said that petitioners waived their objection to these instructions. Pp. 370 U. S. 26-27.

(c) In view of the provisions of § 6 of the Clayton Act and § 1 of the Capper-Volstead Act, the three legal entities formed by these growers for the purpose of processing and marketing their agricultural products cooperatively cannot be considered independent parties for the purposes of the conspiracy provisions of §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Pp. 370 U. S. 27-29.

(d) Where one of several theories submitted to a jury is held erroneous, a general verdict must be reversed, as it may have rested on the erroneous theory. Pp. 370 U. S. 29-30.

284 F. 2d 1 reversed and cause remanded.

Page 370 U. S. 20

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