Texas Industries, Inc. v. Radcliff Materials, Inc.

PETITIONER: Texas Industries, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Radcliff Materials, Inc.
LOCATION: New York State Thruway

DOCKET NO.: 79-1144
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 451 US 630 (1981)
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1981
DECIDED: May 26, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Benjamin R. Slater, Jr. - on behalf of the Petitioner
Dando B. Cellini - on behalf of the Respondents
Wade H. McCree, Jr. - on behalf of the united states as amicus curiae

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Texas Industries, Inc. v. Radcliff Materials, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1981 in Texas Industries, Inc. v. Radcliff Materials, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Texas Industries v. Radcliff Materials.

Mr. Slater, I think you may proceed when you are ready.

Benjamin R. Slater, Jr.:

Thank you, Your Honor.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The issue before the Court in this matter this morning is whether a defendant in a federal antitrust action may seek contributions, and the threshold question we submit to the Court is whether the remedy sought here is one that is necessary to achieve the congressional intent of the antitrust laws?

Will it further the congressional goals to grant contributions?

In order to address the question, we would briefly like to just review the very brief facts of this case.

We are dealing here with a situation in which a plaintiff has filed a treble damage action under Section 1 of the Sherman Act and Section 4 of the Clayton Act, alleging a pricefixing conspiracy.

The plaintiff has sued Texas Industries.

Identified as alleged coconspirators with Texas Industries were the three respondents.

The plaintiff did not sue the three respondents, he selected Texas Industries as the target and Texas Industries in turn filed a third party demand seeking contribution.

Now, although, in order for liability to exist to the plaintiff here, there must have been some participation by one or more of these respondents along with Texas Industries, the plaintiff can do what he has done here.

He can select and he can elect, as he has done, to sue a single tortfeasor.

Under the existing case law all coconspirators are joint tortfeasors and have been so for many, many years.

Each, as a joint tortfeasor, is liable for the whole of the damages that the plaintiff can prove.

And in addition, even if the plaintiff here had elected to sue all four and had obtained a judgment against all four, he could then elect to levy his judgment on any one of the four and collect from that one.

In the absence of contribution, TXI, Texas Industries, cannot force any of these respondents to share the common burden, and had the plaintiff sued all four and obtained a judgment and decided to levy on one, that one in the absence of contribution could not force the other judgment debtors to pay any share of their judgment.

William H. Rehnquist:

You don't contend, do you, that if the plaintiff had sued four and obtained a judgment against four, he could have levied on one for the entire amount?

Benjamin R. Slater, Jr.:

Yes, sir, I do.

I certainly do.

William H. Rehnquist:

You agree that he could have done that?

Benjamin R. Slater, Jr.:

Yes, sir, he could have done that.

William H. Rehnquist:

And the contribution remedy would have to be worked out afterwards?

Benjamin R. Slater, Jr.:

Well, in the absence of contribution there would be no way that that one who is levied on could force the other three to pay part of the deficit.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, supposing there were a contribution remedy, would you say that that prevented the plaintiff from levying on one of the four?

Benjamin R. Slater, Jr.:

No, sir; it would not prevent him.

Contribution does not affect the plaintiff's right to go against any one of the joint tortfeasors.

William H. Rehnquist:

For the full amount?

Benjamin R. Slater, Jr.:

For the full amount.

The only thing that contribution would do would be to permit the one who is levied upon to get a share of that back from the others.