Hanna v. Plumer (Part 2)
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?
- In determining whether a federal procedural law should apply over a state law, a court should look at the York outcome-determination test in the light of the twin aims of the Erie rule: discouragement of forum-shopping and avoidance of inequitable administration of the laws.
- Outcome-determination analysis was never intended to serve as a talisman.
- The message of York is that choices between state and federal law are to be made not by application of any automatic, "litmus paper" criterion, but rather by reference to the policies underlying the Erie rule.
- In a broad sense, every procedural variation is outcome-determinative.
- The difference between these two rules would be of scant, if any, relevance to the choice of a forum.
- P as not presented with a situation where application of the state rule would wholly bar recovery; rather, adherence to the state rule would have resulted only in altering the way in which process was served.
- It is difficult to argue that permitting service of a D's wife to take the place of in-hand service of D himself alters the mode of enforcement of state-created rights in a fashion sufficiently substantial to raise the sort of equal protection problems to which the Erie opinion alluded.
- A simple forum shopping rule proves too much; litigants often choose a federal forum merely to obtain what they consider the advantages of the FRCP or to try their cases before a supposedly more favorable judge.
- So long as a reasonable man could characterize any duly adopted federal rule as "procedural", the Court would have it apply no matter how seriously it frustrated a state's substantive regulation of the primary conduct and affairs of its citizens.
- While the unadulterated outcome and forum-shopping tests may err too far toward honoring state rules, the Court's "arguably procedural, therefore constitutional" test moves too fast and far in the other direction.
- Important to remember that this case would have been brought properly if the P knew which rule to follow; this wasn't an issue of the suit being barred if brought in one court instead of another.
- Was a response to some of the issues of Byrd.
- Track three analysis --
- Is the judge-made rule broad enough to cover the circumstances?
- No. Follow state rule.
- Yes. Is it at least arguably procedural (and fall in line with federal statutes and rules)?
- No. Follow state rule.
- Yes. Would following the rule be outcome-determinative AND encourage forum-shopping?
- Yes. Would federal policy trump the application of state law under Byrd balancing?
- Yes. Apply judge-made rule.
- No. Apply state rule.
- No. Apply judge made rule.