First National Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Company

PETITIONER: First National Bank of Arizona
RESPONDENT: Cities Service Company
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 391 US 253 (1968)
ARGUED: Nov 09, 1967
DECIDED: May 20, 1968
GRANTED: Jan 16, 1967

Simon H. Rifkind - for the respondent
William E. Kelly - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Gerald Waldron filed an anti-trust action against Cities Service Co. and six other large oil companies. Waldron sought treble damages alleging a conspiracy by the oil companies to boycott Iranian oil. The trial judge limited Waldron’s discovery to depositions of certain Cities employees. After an extended period of depositions, the trial judge granted Cities summary judgment because there was no material evidence that Cities took any part in the conspiracy. The court denied Waldron’s motion of additional discovery because the court felt it would be a fishing expedition and constitute harassment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Affirmed.


(1) Did the trial judge abuse his discretion in limiting Waldron’s discovery?

(2) Was summary judgment properly awarded?

Media for First National Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1967 in First National Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Company

Earl Warren:

Number 23 Patricia Waldron, etcetera, petitioner versus City Service Company.

Mr. Kelly.

William E. Kelly:

Please the Court.

I represent the petitioner Patricia Waldron the Executrix of the estate of her late husband Gerald B. Waldron, who is the original plaintiff in this action.

For the purposes of simplicity the parties on this appeal continue to refer to Mr. Waldron as the petitioner or the plaintiff.

A word of background; in 1951 Iran nationalized its oil resources.

Up until this time and for many years the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, one of the defendants in this action, now known as British Petroleum had operated the Iranian oil industry under a long term concession.

The act of nationalization in effect kicked the British out.

The British retaliated and in this case when I refer to the British, I refer to the British government as well because British Petroleum is 51% owned by the British government, retaliated by a boycott on Iranian oil.

The other defendants in this action who are the international major oil companies respected this boycott with the result that the Iranians from the spring of 1951, indeed throughout the entire period of time we refer to were unable to sell any oil in the world markets.

In 1952 plaintiff who conceitedly did not have any experience in the oil business up to that time nonetheless obtained a contract from the Iranian Government allowing him to purchase an enormous amount of oil, 50 million metric tons of oil at significant discounts below the posted Persian Gulf prices.

Thereafter he attempted to sell this oil in the United States approaching over 50 independent oil companies and he was unable to sell a single drop of that oil.

One of the companies he approached was the respondent Cities Service and it is that particular aspect of the case that is before the Court today.

His contract expired in the summer, 1953.

The action itself was commenced on June 11, 1956.

It is of course an action, treble damage anti-trust action, a private antitrust action.

Almost immediately the defendants claiming one case at least that they never heard of plaintiff obtained a stay of plaintiff’s discovery in order to permit them to depose him and to frame answers in response to the complaint.

That stay which was obtained in early July 1956 has been enforced throughout the entire ligation, 11 years.

It in enforced today but plaintiff has been under that state for the entire period of this litigation.

He has had no opportunity to conduct any general discovery whatever.

In 1960 --

Earl Warren:

What date was that, you were saying.

William E. Kelly:

The stay itself was obtained I believe it was July 3, 1956, an order of the district court.

Stay of what, stay of what

William E. Kelly:

Stay of any discovery on his part, preventing him from taking any general discovery.

I will return to this point in a moment Your Honor.

I just want to lay out the overall action and the appeal.

In 1960 while the plaintiff was still under this stay and after the plaintiff had been deposed Cities moved for summary judgment.

This motion was adjourned several times to allow plaintiff to conduct limited discovery of Cities Service.

The motion was finally granted in 1965.