Hanna v. Plumer (Part 1)
SCOTUS - 1965
- P (OH) filed her complaint in district court of MA claiming damages in excess of $10k resulting from an automobile accident in SC allegedly caused by the negligence of D (MA).
- Service was made on D in compliance with FRCP 4(d)(1) but not in compliance with MA state law.
- District court granted D's motion for summary judgment, MA state law controls service.
- 1st Cir COA affirmed, granted D's motion for summary judgment, MA state law controls service.
- SCOTUS reversed and remanded, FRCP should control service.
- Should issues of service brought in federal court in diversity cases be controlled by state law or federal procedural law?
- Federal courts sitting in diversity should apply federal procedural law when issues relating to service arise.
- Under the cases construing the scope of the Enabling Act, Rule 4(d)(1) clearly passes muster. Prescribing the manner in which a D is to be notified that a suit has been instituted against him, it relates to the practice and procedure of the district courts.
- If there were no conflicting state procedure, Rule 4(d)(1) would clearly hold.
- The Erie rule has never been invoked to void a Federal Rule.
- It is true that there have been cases where the Court has held applicable a state rule in the face of an argument that the situation was governed by one of the Federal Rules. But the holding of each such case was not that Erie commanded displacement of a Federal Rule by an inconsistent state rule, but rather that the Federal Rule was not as broad as the losing party urged, and therefore, there being no Federal Rule which covered the point in dispute, Erie commanded the enforcement of state law.
- The line between "substance" and "procedure" shifts as the legal context changes.
- Erie and its offspring cast no doubt on the long-recognized power of Congress to prescribe housekeeping rules for federal courts even though some of those rules will inevitably differ from comparable state rules.
- To hold that a FRCP must cease to function whenever it alters the mode of enforcing state-created rights would be to disembowel either the Constitution's grant of power over federal procedure or Congress' attempt to exercise that power in the Enabling Act.
- Rule 4(d)(1) is valid and controls this case.