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SOBEL v. NATIONAL FRUIT PROD. CO.

November 9, 1962

Adele SOBEL and Leonard Sobel
v.
NATIONAL FRUIT PRODUCT CO., Inc.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUSEN

This automobile accident case is an action for injuries to the above wife plaintiff, Adele Sobel. Joined in this action was Leonard Sobel's claim for alleged damages of $ 10,000. resulting from his wife's injury not resulting in death. At the trial, nothing was adduced to equal or surpass this amount of damages and the jury awarded him $ 1,392.13. *fn1"

The report of the pre-trial conference of March 19, 1962 (Document No. 14), contains the following language in paragraph 10:

 'Question may arise as to lack of jurisdiction over claim of husband-P which probably will not attain the amount required for jurisdiction. P's counsel contends claims of husband-P can be combined because claim of husband-P is derivative. Was ordered to furnish Pre-Trial Judge with memorandum of authorities, if any, supporting his position.'

 On March 27, 1962, a pre-trial order was entered (Document No. 15) containing the following language:

 'Plaintiffs' counsel shall, within ten (10) days, file with the Pretrial Judge, a memorandum of authorities relied on to support his contention that the claim of Leonard Sobel meets the jurisdictional requirement.'

 On April 5, 1962, a memorandum of law, docketed as Document No. 19, was filed with the court by counsel for plaintiffs. In view of the above circumstances and the following language of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the trial judge pointed out to counsel at the time of the trial that the court had an obligation to examine the question of jurisdiction presented by this case:

 'In any event the court below must determine whether or not there is diversity jurisdiction. We cannot do so on the present record. Jurisdictional questions should be determined as early as possible in a litigation.'

 See Berkowitz v. Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corporation, 303 F.2d 585, 588 (3rd Cir., 1962).

 The United States District Court only has jurisdiction of this case if the amount in controversy is above $ 10,000.00. *fn2" In 1938, the Supreme Court stated:

 'The rule governing dismissal for want of jurisdiction in cases brought in the federal court is that, unless the law gives a different rule, the sum claimed by the plaintiff controls if the claim is apparently made in good faith. It must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal. The inability of plaintiff to recover an amount adequate to give the court jurisdiction does not show his bad faith or oust the jurisdiction. * * * But if, from the face of the pleadings, it is apparent, to a legal certainty, that the plaintiff cannot recover the amount claimed, or if, from the proofs, the court is satisfied to a like certainty that the plaintiff never was entitled to recover that amount, and that his claim was therefore colorable for the purpose of conferring jurisdiction, the suit will be dismissed.'

 St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288-289, 58 S. Ct. 586, 590, 82 L. Ed. 845.

 Plaintiff claims $ 10,000. damages for expenses incurred, future medical expenses for his wife arising from the accident, and for loss of her society, companionship, services and assistance. From the face of the Complaint, the other pleadings and memoranda, and the evidence adduced at trial, it does not appear that the husband-plaintiff proved more damages or showed more damages than the amount the jury awarded him. *fn3"

 'His good faith in choosing the federal forum is open to challenge not only by resort to the face of his complaint, but by the facts disclosed at trial, and if from either source it is clear that his claim never could have amounted to the sum necessary to give jurisdiction there is no injustice in dismissing the suit.'

 St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., supra, at 290, *fn4" ...


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