Link v. Wabash R. Co.
370 U.S. 626 (1962)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Link v. Wabash R. Co., 370 U.S. 626 (1962)

Link v. Wabash Railroad Co.

No. 422

Argued April 3, 1962

Decided June 25, 1962

370 U.S. 626

Syllabus

More than six years after institution of this diversity of citizenship action by petitioner in a Federal District Court to recover damages for personal injuries sustained in a collision between petitioner's automobile and one of respondent's trains, more than three years after petitioner had finally prevailed against respondent's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and after two fixed trial dates had been postponed, the Court, on September 29, 1960, scheduled a pretrial conference to be held in Hammond, Ind., on October 12, 1960, at 1:00 p.m., and notified counsel for both sides. During the morning of October 11, petitioner's counsel telephoned respondent's counsel from Indianapolis that he expected to be at the pretrial conference. At about 10:45 a.m. on October 12, petitioner's counsel telephoned the judge's secretary to tell the judge that he was otherwise engaged in Indianapolis, that he could not be in Hammond by 1:00 o'clock; but that he would be there on the afternoon of October 13 or any time on October 14, if the pretrial conference could be reset. When petitioner's counsel failed to appear at the pretrial conference, the Court, acting sua sponte, reviewed the history of the case, found that petitioner's counsel had failed to indicate any reasonable excuse for his nonappearance, and dismissed the action "for failure of the plaintiff's counsel to appear at the pretrial, for failure to prosecute this action."

Held: the judgment is affirmed. Pp. 370 U. S. 627-636.

(a) The long recognized inherent power of Federal District Courts, acting on their own initiative, to dismiss cases that have remained dormant because of the inaction or dilatoriness of the parties seeking relief has not been restricted by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) to cases in which the defendant moves for dismissal. Pp. 370 U. S. 629-632.

(b) The circumstances here were such as to dispense with the necessity for advance notice and hearing before dismissing the case. Pp. 370 U. S. 632-633.

(c) Petitioner was bound by his lawyer's conduct on the basis of which the action was dismissed. Pp. 370 U. S. 633-634.

Page 370 U. S. 627

(d) On the record in this case, it cannot be said that the District Court's dismissal of this action for failure to prosecute amounted to an abuse of discretion. Pp. 370 U. S. 633-636.

291 F.2d 542, affirmed.

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