Mexican Central Ry. Co. v. Eckman
187 U.S. 429 (1903)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mexican Central Ry. Co. v. Eckman, 187 U.S. 429 (1903)

Mexican Central Railway Company v. Eckman

No. 124

Submitted December 17, 1902

Decided January 5, 1903

187 U.S. 429

Syllabus

1. The jurisdiction referred to in the first subdivision of the fifth section of the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1891, is the jurisdiction of the Circuit and district courts of the United States as such, and when a case comes directly to this Court under that subdivision, the question of jurisdiction alone is open to examination.

2. The general rule is that the jurisdiction of the federal courts depends not on the relative situation of the parties concerned in interest, but on the relative situation of the parties named in the record.

3. It appears from the statutes of Texas and the decisions of the highest court of that state that a general guardian has the legal right to bring a suit in the state courts of Texas in his own name; it follows that a citizen and resident of the Western District of Texas, who has been duly appointed by the proper court of Texas the guardian of the person and estate of a minor, whose father and mother are residents, citizens and inhabitants of another state, and are not and never have been residents, citizens or inhabitants of Texas, may bring an action in his own name in the United States Circuit Court for the Western District of Texas against a corporation of another state, as the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court is dependent on the citizenship of the guardian, and not on the citizenship of the ward.

This was an action brought in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Texas by J. W. Eckman, a citizen and resident of that district, as guardian of Alfonso Huesselmann, a minor, against the Mexican Central Railway Company, a corporation of Massachusetts, to recover damages for injuries sustained by him in the Republic of Mexico through the negligence of the company, in whose employment he then was. The complaint set out certain sections of the Constitution, of the Penal and Civil Codes, and acts of Congress and regulations thereunder, of Mexico, and averred that, "by virtue of the general principles of right and justice, and by virtue of the laws of Mexico hereinbefore set forth,"

Page 187 U. S. 430

plaintiff had a right of action in Mexico, and that the same existed in the United States, and also that the acts of negligence complained of were wrongful and actionable in the United States and in the State of Texas, as well as in the Republic of Mexico. Defendant filed a plea in abatement to the effect that Huesselmann was not then, or at the time of the infliction of the injuries, a citizen or resident of the State of Texas, but that he and his parents were citizens and residents of the State of Illinois, and that defendant was a resident and citizen of Massachusetts, and had not waived its right to be sued there, which right it pleaded, and asked that the action be dismissed. The plea was overruled, and defendant filed an answer containing seven exceptions or pleas to the jurisdiction, an exception to the complaint for insufficiency, and a general denial. All of the pleas were overruled, and the case was tried before a jury, a verdict rendered in plaintiff's favor, and judgment entered thereon. Thereupon a writ of error was allowed from this Court on a certificate that the following questions of jurisdiction arose:

"First. That Alfonso Huesselmann, at the time of the filing of this suit and now being a minor under twenty-one years of age, and his father and mother both being now alive, and at the time of the filing of this suit and now being residents, citizens, and inhabitants of the State of Illinois, and never having been residents, citizens, and inhabitants of the State of Texas, nor the Western District of Texas, and the defendant, the Mexican Central Railway Company, Limited, being incorporated under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Massachusetts, and at the time of the filing of this suit, and now, being a resident, inhabitant, and citizen of said State of Massachusetts, and never having been incorporated under the laws of the State of Texas, and was not at the time of the filing of this suit a resident, inhabitant, or citizen of the State of Texas or of the Western District of Texas; that said J. W. Eckman, being guardian of the person and estate of said Alfonso Huesselmann at the time of the filing of this suit, and being such now, and being a resident, inhabitant, and citizen of the State of Texas and of the Western District of Texas, now,

Page 187 U. S. 431

and at the time of the filing of this suit, has this Court jurisdiction to try said cause, and does the citizenship of said guardian, J. W. Eckman, confer jurisdiction on this Court, or does the citizenship of the minor and his parents control so as to defeat the jurisdiction of this Court?"

"Second. Whether or not this Court has jurisdiction to try and determine said suit where the minor, Alfonso Huesselmann, and defendant, Mexican Central Railway Company, Limited, are not citizens of this state and district, and where the cause of action arose in the Republic of Mexico, in which republic the contract of service was made and the services thereby contemplated were to be performed?"

"Third. Whether or not this Court has jurisdiction to try and determine this suit under the laws of Mexico as pleaded and proved in this case, insofar as such laws give rights that are to be determined by successive suits, give the right to extraordinary indemnity, considering the social position of the injured party, and insofar as the same are vague, indefinite, and dissimilar to the laws of our country and contrary to our policy?"

"Fourth. Where plaintiff's cause of action arose in the Republic of Mexico, and the rights are to be determined by the laws of said republic, and where defendant has continuously kept its property and operated its road in said republic, has this Court jurisdiction to hear and determine this cause in the absence of any reason shown in the pleading or proof why plaintiff did not bring his suit in the Republic of Mexico?"

"Fifth. Where, according to the laws of the Republic of Mexico, no civil liability exists unless the acts that give rise to the civil liability must be found to be a violation of the criminal laws of Mexico, is the enforcement of such liability penal in its nature, and can this Court determine the guilt of defendant thereunder, and adjudicate the rights of the parties based upon the criminal laws of said republic? "

Page 187 U. S. 432

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