Greyhound Corp. v. Mt. Hood Stages, Inc.,
437 U.S. 322 (1978)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Greyhound Corp. v. Mt. Hood Stages, Inc., 437 U.S. 322 (1978)

Greyhound Corp. v. Mt. Hood Stages, Inc.

No. 77-598

Argued April 24, 1978

Decided June 19, 1978

437 U.S. 322


On October 7, 1964, respondent motor carrier instituted a proceeding before the Interstate Commerce Commission in which it asked the ICC to reopen proceedings in which the ICC, over respondent's opposition, had approved petitioner's acquisition of several bus companies, alleging that petitioner had not lived up to representations that the acquisitions would not adversely affect respondent. On December 14, 1964, the United States petitioned for leave (and later was allowed) to intervene in the ICC proceeding, stating that respondent's allegations made "a serious charge," but that it did not know whether they were "true or false." After extensive hearings, the ICC decided against petitioner. In the meantime, on July 5, 1968, respondent filed an action in District Court alleging, inter alia, violations of the federal antitrust laws, and the jury found violations of the Sherman Act and fraudulent concealment of such violations. The court held that the Government's petition to intervene in the ICC proceeding served to toll the statute of limitations under § 5(i) of the Clayton Act (which provides that "[w]henever any civil or criminal proceeding is instituted by the United States to prevent, restrain, or punish violations of any of the antitrust laws, . . . the running of the statute of limitations in respect of every private . . . right of action arising under said laws and based in whole or in part on any matter complained of in said proceeding shall be suspended during the pendency thereof and for one year thereafter"), with the result that the Act's four-year period of limitations extended back to December 14, 1960, when it was combined with fraudulent concealment to create a 20-year damages period. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the literal wording of § 5(i) was not controlling and that § 5(i)'s purpose in furthering effective enforcement of the antitrust laws by permitting private litigants to benefit from governmental antitrust enforcement efforts would be advanced by treating the United States' petition to intervene as the "functional equivalent of a direct action" by the United States.

Held: The Clayton Act's statute of limitations was

Page 437 U. S. 323

not tolled under § 5(i) by the filing of the Government's petition to intervene in the ICC proceeding. Pp. 437 U. S. 330-337.

(a) The ICC proceeding was plainly not "instituted by the United States" within the meaning of § 5(i). It strains accepted usage to argue that a part.y who intervenes in a proceeding instituted by someone else has also "instituted that proceeding." In fact, the United States not only did not institute the ICC proceeding but was not in a position to do so, since, in view of its statement that it did not know whether respondent's allegations were "true or false," it could not in good faith have made the charging allegations necessary to institute the proceeding. Pp. 437 U. S. 330-331.

(b) Neither had the United States, within the meaning of § 5(i), "complained of" anything on which the District Court action was based, since in the ICC proceeding its petition to intervene charged petitioner with no wrongdoing, took no position on the merits, sought no relief, and disclaimed any knowledge of the relevant facts, seeking only an opportunity for respondent to establish its allegations. Pp. 437 U. S. 331-332.

(c) What is now § 5(i) was enacted to ensure that private litigants would have the benefit of prior Government antitrust efforts, and this purpose would not be served by construing § 5(i) as applicable to the facts of this case, where respondent is seeking to benefit not from a Government antitrust action, but from an ICC proceeding respondent itself instituted. Pp. 437 U. S. 332-334.

(d) Application of § 5(i) to this case would also fail to give weight to Congress' purpose in amending the Clayton Act to provide a uniform four-year period of limitations, and thus eliminate the prior confusion caused by determining the period of limitations by state law. P. 437 U. S. 334.

555 F.2d 687, vacated and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. BURGER, C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 437 U. S. 337.

Page 437 U. S. 324

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