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ELI LILLY & CO. v. SAV-ON-DRUGS

decided: May 22, 1961.

ELI LILLY & CO
v.
SAV-ON-DRUGS, INC., ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY.

Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker, Stewart

Author: Black

[ 366 U.S. Page 276]

 MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellant Eli Lilly and Company, an Indiana corporation dealing in pharmaceutical products, brought this action in a New Jersey state court to enjoin the

[ 366 U.S. Page 277]

     appellee Sav-On-Drugs, Inc., a New Jersey corporation, from selling Lilly's products in New Jersey at prices lower than those fixed in minimum retail price contracts into which Lilly had entered with a number of New Jersey drug retailers. Sav-On had itself signed no such contract but, under the New Jersey Fair Trade Act, prices so established become obligatory upon nonsigning retailers who have notice that the manufacturer has made these contracts with other retailers.*fn1 Sav-On moved to dismiss this complaint under a New Jersey statute that denies a foreign corporation transacting business in the State the right to bring any action in New Jersey upon any contract made there unless and until it files with the New Jersey Secretary of State a copy of its charter together with a limited amount of information about its operations*fn2 and obtains from him a certificate authorizing it to do business in the State.*fn3

Lilly opposed the motion to dismiss, urging that its business in New Jersey was entirely in interstate commerce and arguing, upon that ground, that the attempt to require it to file the necessary information and obtain a certificate for its New Jersey business was forbidden by the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution. Both parties offered evidence to the Court in the nature of affidavits as to the extent and kind of business done by Lilly with New Jersey companies and people. On this

[ 366 U.S. Page 278]

     evidence, the trial court made findings of fact and granted Sav-On's motion to dismiss, stating as its ground that "the conclusion is inescapable that the plaintiff [Lilly] was in fact doing business in this State at the time of the acts complained of and was required to, but did not, comply with the provisions of the Corporation Act."*fn4 On appeal to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, this constitutional attack was renewed and the State Attorney General was permitted to intervene as a party-defendant to defend the validity of the statute. The State Supreme Court then affirmed the judgment upholding the statute, relying entirely upon the opinion of the trial court.*fn5 We noted probable jurisdiction to consider Lilly's contention that the constitutional question was improperly decided by the state courts.*fn6

[ 366 U.S. Page 279]

     The record shows that the New Jersey trade in Lilly's pharmaceutical products is carried on through both interstate and intrastate channels. Lilly manufactures these products and sells them in interstate commerce to certain selected New Jersey wholesalers. These wholesalers then sell the products in intrastate commerce to New Jersey hospitals, physicians and retail drug stores, and these retail stores in turn sell them, again in intrastate commerce, to the general public. It is well established that New Jersey cannot require Lilly to get a certificate of authority to do business in the State if its participation in this trade is limited to its wholly interstate sales to New Jersey wholesalers.*fn7 Under the authority of the so-called "drummer" cases, such as Robbins v. Shelby Page 279} County Taxing District,*fn8 Lilly is free to send salesmen into New Jersey to promote this interstate trade without interference from regulations imposed by the State. On the other hand, it is equally well settled that if Lilly is engaged in intrastate as well as interstate aspects of the New Jersey drug business, the State can require it to get a certificate of authority to do business.*fn9 In such a situation, Lilly could not escape state regulation merely because it is also engaged in interstate commerce. We must then look to the record to determine whether Lilly is engaged in intrastate commerce in New Jersey.

The findings of the trial court, based as they are upon uncontroverted evidence presented to it, show clearly that Lilly is conducting an intrastate as well as an interstate business in New Jersey:

"The facts are these: Plaintiff maintains an office at 60 Park Place, Newark, New Jersey. Its name is on the door and on the tenant registry in the lobby of the building. (The September 1959 issue of the Newark Telephone Directory lists the plaintiff, both in the regular section and in the classified section under 'Pharmaceutical Products,' as having an office at 60 Park Place, Newark.) The lessor of the space is plaintiff's employee, Leonard L. Audino, who is district manager in charge of its marketing division for the district known as Newark. Plaintiff is not a party to the lease, but it reimburses Audino 'for all expenses incidental to the maintenance and operation of said office.' There is a secretary in the office,

[ 366 U.S. Page 280]

     who is paid directly by the plaintiff on a salary basis. There are 18 'detailmen' under the supervision of Audino. These detailmen are paid on a salary basis by the plaintiff, but receive no commissions. Many, if not all of them, reside in the State of New Jersey. Whether plaintiff pays unemployment or other taxes to the State of New Jersey is not stated. It is the function of the detailmen to visit retail pharmacists, physicians and hospitals in order to acquaint them with the products of the plaintiff with a view to encouraging the use of these products. Plaintiff contends that their work is 'promotional and informational only.' On an occasion, these detailmen, 'as a service to the retailer,' may receive an order for plaintiff's products for transmittal to a wholesaler. They examine the stocks and inventory of retailers and make recommendations to them relating to the supplying and merchandising of plaintiff's products. They also make available to retail druggists, free of charge, advertising and promotional material. When defendant opened its store in Carteret, plaintiff offered to provide, and did provide, announcements for mailing to the medical profession, without cost to defendant. The same thing occurred when defendant opened its Plainfield store."*fn10

We agree with the trial court that "to hold under the facts above recited that plaintiff [Lilly] is not doing business in New Jersey is to completely ignore reality."*fn11 Eighteen "detailmen," working out of a big office in Newark, New Jersey, with Lilly's name on the door and in the lobby of the building, and ...


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