December 31, 1997
E Z SOCKETS, INC., PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT,
BRIGHTON-BEST SOCKET SCREW MFG., INC., PERRY ROSENSTEIN AND LAKSHMI PRECISION SCREWS LTD., DEFENDANTS/RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Union County.
Before Judges Pressler, Conley and Wallace.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam
Argued: December 2, 1997
Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendants alleging antitrust violations and tortious interference with plaintiff's prospective economic benefit. The motion Judge granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, holding that while plaintiff had alleged a vertical restraint of trade, it had failed to prove by the "rule of reason" test or by the "per se" violation test, that defendants' conduct constituted a vertical price-fixing agreement. Further, the Judge held that while plaintiff could prove some of the elements of tortious interference, it had not produced evidence that defendants had employed "unlawful means," such as fraud, intimidation, misrepresentation or other violations of the law.
At oral argument, plaintiff limited its argument on the antitrust claim to contending that it had presented sufficient evidence to prove a per se violation, thus abandoning any claim based on the rule of reason. Additionally, plaintiff continued to urge that defendants' conduct constituted tortious interference.
We reject plaintiff's contentions. A vertical restraint is not illegal per se unless it includes some agreement on price or price levels. See Business Elecs. v. Sharp Elecs., 485 U.S. 717, 735-36; 108 S. Ct. 1515; 99 L. Ed. 2d 808, 844, cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1005, 108 S. Ct. 1727, 100 L. Ed. 2d 192 (1988). Evidence of price-fixing is lacking here. Further, plaintiff failed to meet all of the requirements to prove a claim for tortious interference. See Printing Mart-Morristown Elecs. v. Sharp Elecs., 116 N.J. 739 (1989).
The judgment of the Law Division is affirmed substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Boyle in his opinion reported at ___ N.J. Super. ___ (Law Div. 1997).