236 US 305 Iowa Central Railway Company v. L M Bacon W

236 U.S. 305

35 S.Ct. 357

59 L.Ed. 591

L. M. BACON, Administrator of the Estate of Martin W. Lockhart, Deceased.

No. 130.

Submitted January 19, 1915.

Decided February 23, 1915.

Messrs. William H. Bremner and F. M. Miner for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 306-308 intentionally omitted]

Messrs. E. Elmer Mitchell, L. T. Shangle, D. C. Waggoner, and J. N. McCoy for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice Day delivered the opinion of the court:

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The defendant in error, as administrator of Martin W. Lockhart, deceased, brought an action on the 22d of September, 1905, in the district court of Iowa in and for the county of Mahaska, to recover damages for the alleged wrongful killing of his intestate. In the petition it was alleged that the estate had been damaged in the sum of $10,000, but judgment was asked only for the sum of $1,990. On September 30th, 1905, the railway company filed its answer, and on the 2d of October, 1905, within the time required by law, filed a petition for removal of the cause to the United States circuit court in and for the southern district of Iowa, on the ground of diversity of citizenship, alleging that the amount in controversy exceeded, with interest and costs, the sum of $2,000. The petition was accompanied by a bond.


The district court of Mahaska county did not enter any order directing the removal of the case, but, on the 29th of March, 1906, there was filed in the office of the clerk of the United States circuit court for the southern district of Iowa a transcript of the proceedings in the case. After the filing of the transcript in the Federal court, the case was continued from term to term, until, on the 5th day of December, 1908, an order to notice said case for trial at the next term, or show cause why it should not be dismissed, was entered, and the clerk was directed to mail and serve a copy of said order on the parties. On May 11, 1909, the circuit court of the United States entered an order dismissing the cause for want of prosecution, at the plaintiff's costs, and the defendant was given judgment for its costs.


Afterwards, on the 19th of September, 1910, the plaintiff filed in the office of the district court of Mahaska county an amended and substituted petition. On the 6th of October, 1910, the district court entered an order, denying the application of the defendant for a removal of the cause to the United States court on the ground that the amount in controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, was less than $2,000. The application for removal was the one filed on October 2, 1905. On February 28, 1911, the railway company filed a motion to dismiss the case and to strike from the files all pleadings filed subsequent to the 1st of September, 1905, on the ground that the case had been removed to the United States circuit court. Attached to the motion was a certified copy of the record in the United States court. This motion was denied, and afterwards the case went to trial in the state court, and upon verdict of the jury a judgment was rendered against the railway company. The case was taken to the supreme court of Iowa, and that court affirmed the judgment of the lower court. 157 Iowa, 493, 137 N. W. 1011. The case was brought here, and the Federal question presented is whether the state court had lost its jurisdiction by the attempted removal to the United States circuit court.


It was, of course, essential to the removal of the case that the amount in controversy should have been sufficient to give the Federal court jurisdiction; that is to say, $2,000, exclusive of interest and costs. The state court had authority to determine the effect of the prayer to the petition, and it decided that, under the petition, no more than the amount prayed for could be recovered in the action, notwithstanding the statement that the estate had suffered damage in the sum $10,000. It is contended that, nevertheless, the proceedings in this case show that the case was removed to the United States circuit court, and inasmuch as the state court lost jurisdiction, its subsequent proceedings are null and void.


In Madisonville Traction Co. v. St. Bernard Min. Co. 196 U. S. 239, 49 L. ed. 462, 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 251, this court said, citing many previous cases, that certain principles relating to the removal of causes had been settled by the former adjudications of the court. One is that if the suit be one in which the circuit court could rightfully take jurisdiction, then upon the filing of the petition for removal in due time, with sufficient bond, the case is in law removed, and the state court loses jurisdiction to proceed further, and all subsequent proceedings therein are void. Furthermore, that if, upon the face of the record, including the petition for removal, the suit does not appear to be removable, then the state court is not bound to surrender its jurisdiction, and may proceed as if no application for removal had been made. See also the previous cases in this court cited in the Madisonville Traction Co.'s Case, at pages 244 and 245.


Applying these principles, it is apparent that the case now under consideration was not, upon the face of the record, a removable one. The prayer for recovery was for $1,990, and consequently the amount required to give jurisdiction to the Federal court was not involved. The filing of the petition and bond did not, therefore, effect a removal of the case.


But it is contended that this case is governed by Chesapeake & O. R. Co. v. McCabe, 213 U. S. 207, 53 L. ed. 765, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 430, because the United States court had determined, as it had authority to, that the case was a removable one, and that so long as that judgment stood, the state court had lost its jurisdiction, and had no power to proceed further in the case. In the McCabe Case, where the state court refused to order the removal of the case upon a transcript being filed, the Federal court held that it had jurisdiction in the case, and proceeded to render a judgment therein; and when this adjudication was brought to the attention of the state court, it refused to give it force, and proceeded to adjudge the case upon its own view of jurisdiction. This court held that the state court was bound to give weight to the judgment of the Federal court deciding that it had jurisdiction, and that the judgment, until reversed, was conclusive upon the state court as to the jurisdiction of the Federal court.

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But no such case is presented here. The Federal court, it is true, more than once made an order continuing the case, and finally dismissed it for want of prosecution. The question of its authority to take jurisdiction was never presented or decided in the Federal court, and there is nothing in the orders made conclusive of that question in such sense that the state court was bound to respect it.


As the record upon its face made no case for removal, the state court was right in retaining its jurisdiction, and proceeding to determine and adjudge the case. The judgment is affirmed.