346 U.S. 338 (1953), 27, Olberding v. Illinois Central Railroad Co., Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 27
Citation:346 U.S. 338, 74 S.Ct. 83, 98 L.Ed. 39
Party Name:Olberding v. Illinois Central Railroad Co., Inc.
Case Date:November 09, 1953
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 338

346 U.S. 338 (1953)

74 S.Ct. 83, 98 L.Ed. 39

Olberding

v.

Illinois Central Railroad Co., Inc.

No. 27

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 9, 1953

Argued October 15, 1953

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Basing jurisdiction solely on diversity of citizenship, an Illinois railroad corporation brought suit in a federal district court in Kentucky against an Indiana owner of a truck which, while on temporary business in Kentucky, collided with an overpass of the railroad, causing a derailment. The defendant was apprised of the action through service of process on the Secretary of State of Kentucky, in accordance with a Kentucky statute. The Kentucky statute did not require the designation of an agent for the service of process, and the defendant had made no such designation.

Held: under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a), the defendant's motion that the case be dismissed on the ground of improper venue should have been granted. Pp. 339-342.

(a) The defendant did not impliedly consent to be sued in a federal court in Kentucky simply by driving his motor vehicle on the highways of that State. Pp. 340-341.

(b) The fact that a nonresident motorist who comes into Kentucky can, consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, be subjected to suit in the appropriate Kentucky state court is irrelevant to his rights under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a). P. 341.

(c) Neirbo Co. v. Bethlehem Corp., 308 U.S. 165, distinguished. Pp. 341-342.

201 F.2d 582, reversed.

In a suit in a federal district court based solely on diversity of citizenship, the defendant's motion that the case be dismissed on the ground of improper venue was overruled, and there was a verdict for the plaintiff. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 201 F.2d 582. This Court granted certiorari. 345 U.S. 950. Reversed, p. 342.

Page 339

FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

For present purposes, the facts may be briefly stated. The railroad brought suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky against Olberding, the owner of a truck, which, while on temporary business in Kentucky, collided with an overpass of the railroad, causing a subsequent derailment. Jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship, plaintiff being an Illinois corporation and Olberding a citizen of Indiana. Olberding was apprised of the action through service of process on the Secretary of State in Frankfort, Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Nonresident Motorist Statute. * He entered a special appearance and moved that the case be dismissed on the ground of improper venue. The motion was overruled, and the case went to trial, resulting in a verdict for the plaintiff. The Court of Appeals for the [74 S.Ct. 85] Sixth Circuit affirmed, 201 F.2d 582. Its ruling on venue, in the situation here presented, is in direct conflict with that of the First Circuit in Martin

Page 340

v. Fishbach Trucking Co., 183 F.2d 53, with which the Third Circuit has recently agreed, McCoy v. Siler, 205 F.2d 498. To resolve the conflict, we granted certiorari. 345 U.S. 950.

This is a horse soon curried. Congress, in conferring jurisdiction on the district courts in cases based solely on diversity of citizenship, has been explicit to confine such suits to "the judicial district where all plaintiffs or all defendants reside." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a). This is not a qualification upon the power of the court to adjudicate, but a limitation designed for the convenience of litigants, and, as such, may be waived by them. The plaintiff, by bringing the suit in a district other than that authorized by the statute, relinquished his right to object to the venue. But unless the defendant has also consented to be used in that district, he has a right to invoke the protection which Congress has afforded him. The requirement of venue is specific and unambiguous; it is not one of those vague principles which, in the interest of some overriding policy, is to be given a "liberal" construction.

It is not claimed that either the corporate plaintiff or the individual defendant here was a "resident" of Kentucky. The sole reason why the plaintiff was allowed to bring this action in the...

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