Saturday, December 28, 2013

Nelson v. Keefer case brief

Nelson v. Keefer case brief summary
451 F.2d 289 (1971)

Plaintiff accident victims appealed a decision of a United States District Court which dismissed their diversity action at pre-trial when it determined to a legal certainty that their claims were for less than the jurisdictional amount.

Plaintiff, accident victims, brought a diversity action in federal court. The district court dismissed the action at pre-trial on the grounds that it appeared that the claims were for less than the jurisdictional amount.


  • On appeal, the court affirmed. 
  • Analogizing the authority of a court to reject a jury's verdict through the practice of remittitur, the court recognized a corollary power in that same court to evaluate a case prior to trial where sufficient information was made available through pre-trial discovery and comprehensive pre-trial narrative statements which disclosed medical reports. 
  • Assuming that claimed tangible items of damage legally related to the cause of action were taken as true, the court was able to determine the upper limit of a permissible award that included tangible recoverable items such as medical special and lost wages damage items as well as the intangibles of pain, suffering, and inconvenience. 
  • The upper limit of plaintiffs' damages did not bear a reasonable relation to the minimum jurisdictional floor, and there was no legal obstacle to a pre-trial determination that the action did not satisfy federal jurisdictional requirements.

The judgment dismissing plaintiff accidents victims' diversity action at pre-trial affirmed because the statutory jurisdictional minimum could not be gleaned from the facts averred in support of the complaint and because their legally recoverable ceiling did not at its apex reach the federal jurisdictional floor.

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