Bloom v. American Express Co., 34225.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtJulius J. Olson
Citation23 N.W.2d 570,222 Minn. 249
Docket NumberNo. 34225.,34225.
Decision Date28 June 1946
23 N.W.2d 570
222 Minn. 249
No. 34225.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
June 28, 1946.

[23 N.W.2d 572]

[222 Minn. 250]

Appeal from District Court, Hennepin County; Winfield W. Bardwell, Judge.

Action by Victor M. Bloom against American Express Company to recover overtime wages allegedly due under Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, § 1 et seq., 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq. From an order granting defendant's motion to set aside the service of summons, plaintiff appeals.

Order affirmed.

Fred Sorenson, of Minneapolis, for appellant.

Morgan, Chase, Headley & Hoshour and Samuel H. Morgan, all of St. Paul, for respondent.


Plaintiff appeals from an order granting his adversary's motion to set aside the service of summons. His cause of action has for its object the recovery of overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq. The services so rendered consisted of acting as defendant's tour escort between Chicago and various cities and places in the Republic of Mexico between December 28, 1941, and June 1, 1942.

Defendant is an unincorporated joint stock association organized under the common law of New York. It has conducted its business in Minnesota for more than 30 years. Its business consists of conducting travel tours for groups of persons both here and abroad, issuing and selling travelers' checks and letters of credit, and acting as agent for shippers and consignees commonly known as "foreign freight forwarders."

Defendant's principal office in this state is in Minneapolis, and during the time here involved, in fact ever since 1927, that office has been and was in charge of one James E. Beard, who is its principal agent in this state and possessed of the powers and authority of a general agent. None of defendant's members are residents of Minnesota, nor are any of its officers domiciled here. The only issue presented is whether the court erred in holding that jurisdiction had not been acquired, since service was not made upon any member or officer of defendant, and that service upon Mr. Beard was not authorized by our law, Minn.St. 1941, § 540.15, Mason St.1927, § 9180, which reads:

222 Minn. 251

"When two or more persons transact business as associates and under a common name, whether such name comprise the names of such persons or not, they may be sued by such common name, and the summons may be served on one or more of them. The judgment in such case shall bind the joint property of all the associates, the same as though all had been named as defendants." (Italics supplied.)

Under the common law, an unincorporated association was not recognized as a legal entity and, as such, could neither sue nor be sued. Starting with this background, we find that the act cited goes back to G.S. 1866, c. 66, § 37. While the language there used is slightly different from that of the present statute, the substance is the same now as it was then. Furthermore, in G.S.1878, c. 66, § 42, we find the statute practically in its present form, and it has so remained ever since. By L.1901, c. 278, it was provided: "Whenever a cause of action exists or has accrued in favor of a resident of this state against any non-resident, individual, association or copartnership engaged in business in this state, by reason of said business so conducted in this state, service of the summons" could be made by delivering a copy thereof to the "manager, superintendent, representative, foreman or agent while he is in actual charge of the business out of which said cause of action accrued, * * * and such service so made shall be due and sufficient service upon any such individual, association or copartnership."

The constitutionality of this act was attacked in Cabanne v. Graf, 87 Minn. 510, 92 N.W. 461, 59 L.R.A. 735, 94 Am.St. Rep. 722. There the trial court had sustained the service upon a nonresident individual defendant, and the question directly presented and decided was disposed of as follows: This court, relying upon Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714, 24 L.Ed. 565, considered that case (87 Minn. 513, 92 N.W. 462), "the leading authority in support of

23 N.W.2d 573

the now well-settled proposition that, * * * no state can authorize its courts to compel a

222 Minn. 252

citizen of another state remaining therein to come before them and submit to their decision a mere claim upon him for a money demand, no matter what the prescribed mode of service of process against him may be. An attempt to do so is not due process of law." (Citing cases.)

The act was held to be unconstitutional as to that defendant. But we did not thereby declare the entire statute to be unconstitutional. Instead, we said this (87 Minn. 512, 92 N.W. 461): "* * * Whether the statute is valid as applied to associations or copartnerships, which are quasi legal entities, to the extent of binding their property, but not that of the individuals of which they are composed, we do not consider or decide, for this is not such a case, but one against an individual." See Henry L. Doherty & Co. v. Goodman, 294 U.S. 623, 55 S.Ct. 553, 79 L.Ed. 1097.

However, by R.L.1905, § 5544, L.1901, c. 278, was expressly repealed. No legislative substitution has since been made.

The rule has long been established that, in the absence of an enabling statute, an unincorporated association cannot sue or be sued in the association's name, the reason being that such an association, absent a statute recognizing it to be such, has no legal entity distinct from that of its members. That was so determined in St. Paul Typothetae v. St. Paul Bookbinders' Union, 94 Minn. 351, 357, 102 N.W. 725, 726, 3 Ann.Cas. 695, where we held: "But whatever may be the law applicable to such association generally, there is one respect in which the authorities are agreed, and that is that at common law they are not, whether organized for business or other purposes, entitled to recognition in the courts in their association name. It is well settled that, in the absence of a statute otherwise providing, to be entitled to conduct judicial proceedings in court, a party litigant must be either a natural or artificial person. * * * such societies cannot maintain an action in their association name, but must sue in the name of the individuals composing them, however numerous they may be. Such societies,

222 Minn. 253

in the absence of statutes recognizing them, have no legal entity distinct from that of their members." (Citing cases.)

In addition to these, reference may be had to Allis-Chalmers Co. v. Iron Molders' Union, C.C., 150 F. 155, 184; Jardine v. Superior Court, 213 Cal. 301, 307, 2 P.2d 756, 758, 759, 79 A.L.R. 291; 4 Am.Jur., Associations and Clubs, § 46, and cases cited; 79 A.L.R. 291, and annotation, p. 305 et seq.

It is also a recognized rule that, where...

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  • Bloom v. Am. Express Co., 34225.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • June 28, 1946
    ...222 Minn. 24923 N.W.2d 570BLOOMv.AMERICAN EXPRESS CO.No. 34225.Supreme Court of Minnesota.June 28, Action by Victor M. Bloom against American Express Company to recover overtime wages allegedly due under Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, s 1 et seq., 29 U.S.C.A. s 201 et seq. From an order ......

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