Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.
368 U.S. 464 (1962)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464 (1962)

Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.

No. 45

Argued November 13-14, 1961

Decided February 19, 1962

368 U.S. 464

Syllabus

This action under § 4 of the Clayton Act to recover treble damages for losses allegedly resulting from violations of §§1 and 2 of the Sherman Act was brought by petitioner, who is the assignee of a dissolved corporation which formerly owned and operated WCAN, an ultra high frequency (UHF) television broadcasting station in Milwaukee, which was affiliated with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) network. He alleged that, pursuant to a conspiracy to restrain and monopolize trade in the television broadcasting business, CBS purchased WOKY, a competing UHF station in Milwaukee, cancelled WCAN's network affiliation, thereby forced petitioner to sell WCAN to CBS at much less than its true value, and eliminated him from the broadcasting business in Milwaukee. He also alleged that a purpose of the conspiracy was to eliminate UHF broadcasting in Milwaukee and possibly throughout the United States. On the basis of pleadings, affidavits, depositions and interrogatories filed in the case, the District Court granted respondents' motion for a summary judgment on the ground that the injury suffered by petitioner was damnum absque injuria, since CBS had a right to purchase WOKY, subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, and to cancel its affiliation contract with WCAN.

Held: on this record, it cannot be said that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact," within the meaning of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), and the motion for summary judgment should not have been granted. Pp. 368 U. S. 465-474.

(a) If the cancellation of WCAN's network affiliation and the purchase of WOKY by CBS were part and parcel of unlawful conduct or agreement with others or were conceived in a purpose to unreasonably restrain trade, control a market, or monopolize, as alleged in the complaint, then such conduct might well violate the Sherman Act, and the record indicates that, on a trial, petitioner might be able to substantiate his claim of conspiracy. Pp. 368 U. S. 467-473.

(b) Summary procedures should be used sparingly in complex antitrust litigation where motive and intent play leading roles, the proof is largely in the hands of the alleged conspirators, and hostile witnesses thicken the plot. P. 368 U. S. 473.

Page 368 U. S. 465

(c) It cannot be said that no restraint of trade resulted from termination by CBS of its affiliation with WCAN because the public would still receive the same service from another source. Klor's v. Broadway-Hale Stores,359 U. S. 207. P. 368 U. S. 473.

109 U.S. App.D.C. 170, 284 F. 2d 599, reversed.

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