United States v. Dotterweich

320 U.S. 277, 64 S. Ct. 134 (1943)



Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the offense is committed, unless the enterprise that they are serving enjoys the immunity of a guaranty, by all who do have such a responsible share in the furtherance of the transaction which the statute outlaws, namely, to put into the stream of interstate commerce adulterated or misbranded drugs. 


A company purchased drugs from their manufacturers and shipped them, repacked under its own label, in interstate commerce. A case was filed against the president of a company for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (Act).  The jury found the president and the company guilty for shipping misbranded and adulterated drugs. On appeal, the case reversed and remanded the matter for a new trial.


Is the conviction proper?




The Supreme Court found that the district court properly left the question of the president's responsibility for the shipment to the jury, and there was sufficient evidence to support its verdict. The Supreme Court looked at the legislative history and intent and concluded that the Act enlarged and stiffened the penal net; thus a corporation and/or an individual could be a "person" under the Act. Shipments of misbranded and adulterated drugs are punished by the Act, and thus such shipments do not the immunity of a guaranty under § 303(c) of the Act. Whether the president shared responsibility in the business process resulting in unlawful distribution depended on the evidence produced at the trial and its submission to the jury under appropriate guidance. Hence, the president who was found to have aided and abetted the shipment of adulterated and misbranded drugs was guilty under Sec. 301 of the Act.

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