Coates v. Ellis., 643.

Docket NºNo. 643.
Citation61 A.2d 28
Case DateAugust 20, 1948
CourtCourt of Appeals of Columbia District

61 A.2d 28


No. 643.

Municipal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Aug. 20, 1948.

Appeal from Municipal Court for the District of Columbia, Civil Division.

Action by Walter Coates against Mrs. Lorena Ellis for property damages sustained in an automobile collision. From an order granting defendant's motion to dismiss without prejudice, plaintiff appeals.


61 A.2d 29

F. H. Livingstone, of Washington, D. C. (Paul J. Sedgwick, of Washington, D. C., on the brief), for appellant.

Robert K. Eifler, of Washington, D. C. (Howard Boyd and Edward B. Williams, both of Washington, D. C., on the brief), for appellee.

Before CAYTON, Chief Judge, and HOOD and CLAGETT, Associate Judges.

CAYTON, Chief Judge.

These parties were involved in an automobile collision in the District of Columbia. Claiming personal injuries as a result thereof Lorena Ellis (defendant in this case) sued Walter Coates (plaintiff herein) for $20,000 damages for personal injuries in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In said action she was joined as plaintiff by her husband who claimed $5,000 for medical expenses and property damage. Their suit was filed on March 4, 1948.

Before service of process was completed in that case Walter Coates filed this suit against Mrs. Ellis in the Municipal Court for $115.44, covering property damages sustained in the same collision. 1

Defendant moved to dismiss the Municipal Court action on the ground of the prior filing and pendency of her District Court action. The trial judge ordered the motion to dismiss ‘granted without prejudice,’ and plaintiff Coates brings this appeal.

61 A.2d 30

The District Court was vested with exclusive jurisdiction over the claim brought by Mrs. Ellis for her damages. It was also vested with jurisdiction over the potential claim of Coates against Mrs. Ellis, which admittedly arose ‘out of the transaction or occurrence,’ Rule 13(a), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A. following section 723c, and was therefore a compulsory counterclaim. As we understand appellant's argument he does not question that his claim would ordinarily be the subject of a compulsory counterclaim; but he says that Rule 13(a) does not apply to this situation because it provides ‘that such a claim need not be so stated if at the time the action was commenced the claim was the subject of another pending action.’ And he argues that the District Court action though filed March 4, 1948, had not been ‘commenced’ when he filed this suit in the Municipal Court eight days later, because process in the District Court action had not then been served upon him and that by the time such process was served he had already filed his Municipal Court action and such action was then ‘the subject of a pending action’ and hence not a compulsory counterclaim in the District Court action.

The argument must fail. Rule 13(a), itself says that such counterclaim shall be compulsory unless it was the subject of a pending action at the time the original action was commenced. It is clear beyond question that the District Court action had been ‘commenced’ eight days before this action was filed in the Municipal Court. It is quite well settled that an action is ‘commenced’ by the filing of the complaint. 2

Hence it follows that when Coates filed his suit in the Municipal Court he was attempting to assert a claim which he should have asserted as a counterclaim in the District Court.

It has been held time and time again that in the interest of orderly procedure and to avoid unseemly conflicts the court which first acquires jurisdiction over a controversy should maintain and exercise that jurisdiction to the exclusion of a court in which subsequent action is taken. Such is the rule as between Federal courts, and also between Federal courts and those of the states. 3 A Federal court may enjoin proceedings in an action subsequently filed. 4 Indeed, it has been held that a Federal court is under a duty to do so. 5

61 A.2d 31

[5] The Federal rules (and the Municipal Court rules which by Congressional mandate are patterned to conform therewith) contemplate the disposition of all controversies arising out of a single event between the parties, at one time and in one legal proceeding. That highly desirable purpose could not be accomplished in a situation like this if the Municipal Court action were not deferred. The Municipal Court, because its jurisdiction stops at $3,000, could not entertain the Ellis claim. 6 Nor would it have any authority to certify the Coates claim to the District Court. 7 Its jurisdiction would thus be restricted only to the claim of Mr. Coates for his repair bill-only a small part of the controversy. The District Court on the other hand had the power to decide the entire dispute; and there is no reason in law, logic, or good practice why its jurisdiction should have been interfered with. Appellant says that the rules of the District Court do not govern the practice in the Municipal Court; and that of...

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11 cases
  • Handy v. Shaw, Bransford, Veilleux & Roth, 01-7129.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • 18 Abril 2003
    ...which the controversy was first raised.'" Id. at 6-8 (quoting Pumpelly v. Cook, 106 F.R.D. 238, 240 (D.D.C.1985)) (citing Coates v. Ellis, 61 A.2d 28, 30 The district court based its Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal without prejudice on the compulsory counterclaim provision of FED. R.CIV.P. 13(a) an......
  • Appalachian Power Company v. Region Properties, Inc., Civ. A. No. 73-C-72-R to 73-C-74-R.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • 21 Septiembre 1973
    ...9 Sparrow v. Nerzig, 228 S.C. 277, 89 S.E. 2d 718 (1955); Conrad v. West, 98 Cal.App. 2d 116, 219 P.2d 477 (1950); Coates v. Ellis, 61 A.2d 28 10 Dixie Ohio Express Co. v. Eagle Express Co., 346 S.W.2d 30 (Ky.1961); Hubbs v. Nichols, 201 Tenn. 304, 298 S.W.2d 801 (1957). 11 Plaintiff's acti......
  • Sparrow v. Nerzig, 17074
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 12 Octubre 1955 ask the Federal court to exercise its injunctive powers to insure that result'. (Emphasis ours.) Coates v. Ellis, D.C.Mun.App., 1948, 61 A.2d 28, involved an automobile collision in the District of Columbia. Mrs. Ellis sued Coates, for personal injuries, in the United States District Cou......
  • Keller v. Keklikian, 42434
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 10 Diciembre 1951
    ...or cause of action that which he should have asserted as a compulsory counterclaim in the original action. Coates v. Ellis, D.C.Mun.App., 61 A.2d 28; Ross v. Stricker, supra. In the pleaded circumstances, having 'proceeded in court' and permitted the disposition of Keklikian's action to his......
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