SQUARE D CO. V. NIAGARA FRONTIER, 476 U. S. 409 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Square D Co. v. Niagara Frontier, 476 U.S. 409 (1986)

Square D Co. v. Niagara Frontier Tariff Bureau, Inc.

No. 85-21

Argued March 3, 1986

Decided May 27, 1986

476 U.S. 409


Petitioner shippers brought class actions in Federal District Court against respondent motor carriers and respondent ratemaking bureau, alleging that, during the years 1966 through 1981, respondents engaged in a conspiracy, in violation of the Sherman Act, to fix rates for transporting freight between the United States and Canada without complying with an agreement filed by the bureau with, and approved by, the Interstate Commerce Commission. Petitioners sought treble damages, measured by the difference between the allegedly higher rates they paid and the rates they would have paid in a freely competitive market, and also sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The District Court dismissed the complaints on the authority of Keogh v. Chicago & Northwestern R. Co., 260 U. S. 156, wherein it was held that a private shipper could not recover treble damages under § 7 of the Sherman Act in connection with ICC-filed tariffs. The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal as to the treble damages claims.

Held: Petitioners are not entitled to bring a treble damages antitrust action. Keogh, supra. Pp. 476 U. S. 415-423.

(a) Nothing in the Reed-Bulwinkle Act or in its legislative history indicates that Congress intended to change or supplant the Keogh rule. Similarly, there is no evidence that Congress, in enacting the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, intended to change the Keogh rule. And cases like Carnation Co. v. Pacific Westbound Conference, 383 U. S. 213, emphasizing the necessity to strictly construe immunity of collective ratemaking activities from antitrust laws, do not render Keogh invalid. Pp. 476 U. S. 417-422.

(b) The various developments that have occurred since Keogh -- the development of class actions, the emergence of precedents permitting treble damages even when there is an available regulatory remedy, greater sophistication in evaluating damages, and the development of procedures in which judicial proceedings can be stayed pending regulatory proceedings -- are insufficient to overcome the strong presumption of continued validity that adheres in the judicial interpretation of a statute. P. 476 U. S. 423.

760 F.2d 1347, affirmed.

Page 476 U. S. 410

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 476 U. S. 424.

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