Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sibbach v. Wilson & Co. case brief

Sibbach v. Wilson & Co. case brief summary
312 U.S. 1 (1941)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Certiorari was granted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to review the affirmance of an order adjudging petitioner, who brought action to recover damages for bodily injuries, guilty of contempt when she did not comply with an order to submit to a physical exam.

CASE FACTS
Respondent moved for an order requiring petitioner to submit to a physical exam. When petitioner did not comply, the district court adjudged petitioner guilty of contempt. The court of appeals affirmed.

DISCUSSION

  • The Supreme Court reversed the judgment. 
  • The Court held that Fed. R. Civ. P. 35 and 37, relating to mental and physical examinations and to refusal to make discovery, were within the authority granted by the Rules Enabling Act of June 19, 1934, 28 U.S.C.S. § 723(b), (c). 
  • The Court rejected petitioner's argument that although Fed. R. Civ. P. 35 and 37 were procedural rules, they affected the important right to be free from personal invasion and thus improperly modified a substantive right. 
  • The Court concluded that no invasion of freedom from personal restraint attached to refusal to comply with the rules' provisions. 
  • The Court held that the test was whether a rule really regulated procedure. 
  • The Court held that the district court erred in adjudging petitioner guilty of contempt because Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2)(iv) exempted from punishment by contempt the refusal to obey an order to submit to a physical or mental exam.
CONCLUSION
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals that had affirmed the judgment that petitioner was guilty of contempt when she failed to submit to a court-ordered physical examination. The Court held that Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 35 and 37 were procedural rules, not substantive rules, and thus within the authority granted by the Rules Enabling Act of June 19, 1934.


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