Vanderbilt Law Review


Robert Heidt

First Page



A doctor is denied staff privileges at a private hospital after a negative recommendation from the hospital's medical staff. A real estate agent is denied membership in a multiple. listing service by a vote of the current members. A golfer is deemed ineligible to compete in a professional golf tournament by a committee of the Professional Golf Association. A college is refused accreditation by a private accrediting association. Plywood of type three ply one half inch is found not to meet the commercial standard for douglas fir plywood established by the Douglas Fir Plywood Association. A fuel cutoff device is said to be in uncertain compliance with the safety standards of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers(ASME) by the ASME's Boiler and Pressure Vessel Committee. A ceramic gas burner fails the tests needed for a "seal of approval" from the American Gas Association." A golf ball is denied approval for tournament play by the United States Golf Association after consultation with the Golf Ball Manufacturers Association. A producer's film is given an "X" rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, a film board established by competing film producers. A screw thread gauge is found to violate the standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) by the ANSI's Screw Thread Committee. A bowling center is denied approval for official play by the Bowling Proprietors Association of America,an association of other bowling centers. A chiropractor is denied access to a hospital's laboratory after the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, an association of medical doctors, tells the hospital that allowing access would jeopardize accreditation.

'In each situation those immediately harmed, like the doctor or the real estate agent (the plaintiff), may consider an antitrust suit under section one of the Sherman Act for treble damages against the private association and its members (the defendants) whose action caused the harm. Each suit is likely to be analyzed as a "group boycott"' and is likely to share the following features: The plain-tiff can establish without difficulty the "combination" and the requisite connection with interstate commerce that section one of the Sherman Act requires. The defendants are, at least in part, the plaintiff's horizontal rivals or, more precisely, firms on the same horizontal level as the plaintiff. The defendants' action, directly or indirectly, puts the plaintiff at a significant competitive disadvantage to his rivals, reduces the plaintiff's revenues, or raises his costs. The defendants' action imposes this harm even though the plaintiff has not violated any criminal law or any rule created or imposed by the government. The defendants' action against the plaintiff is not authorized by any legislative or administrative measure. The defendants' action, therefore, may appear a privately imposed restriction of the plaintiff's opportunity to compete on the merits.

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