The rights of each and all of the parties in this case being
separate and distinct, but depending on one contract, they elected
to join in enforcing the common obligation, and, as one citizen of
Ohio is a necessary party on one side, and another citizen of that
state a necessary party on the other, with interests so conflicting
that the relief prayed for cannot be had without keeping them
opposed, the cause is remanded (with costs against the appellants
in this Court) to the circuit court with directions to dismiss it
for want of jurisdiction.
This was a bill in equity to compel an accounting. The case is
stated in the opinion of the Court.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is an appeal from a decree dismissing the bill in a suit in
equity begun by certain citizens of Michigan, and Samuel M.
Carpenter, Charles Wason, and Leander M. Hubby, citizens of Ohio,
against Andros B. Stone, a citizen of New York, the St. Louis,
Keokuk & Northwestern Railway Company, an Iowa corporation, the
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company, an Illinois
corporation, and Dan P. Eels, a citizen of Ohio, to bring the
defendants Stone and Eels to an accounting under a certain contract
made by Stone with the complainants and others, by which he was to
purchase the property of the Mississippi Valley and Western Railway
Company, about to be sold under a decree of foreclosure, and hold
the same in
Page 121 U. S. 632
trust for such of the holders of the bonds secured by the
foreclosed mortgage as should surrender their bonds to him for use
in paying the purchase money, and contribute such further sums in
cash as should be necessary to enable him to meet the obligations
of his bid at the sale. According to the allegations of the bill
the defendant Eels became a trustee of the proceeds of a sale of
the purchased property, made by Stone for the benefit of the
parties in interest, which he has misappropriated and claims to
hold, in connected with Stone, adversely to the complainants and
others in like interest. The character of the controversy is such
that all the citizens of Ohio, who are parties to the suit, cannot
be placed on one side so as to give the circuit court jurisdiction,
under the construction which was given the second section of the
Act of March 3, 1875, c. 137, 18 Stat. 470, in the Removal
Cases, 100 U. S. 457
first section being the same as the second so far as this question
In Strawbridge v.
3 Cranch 267, decided in 1806, it was
held: "Where the interest is joint, each of the persons concerned
in that interest must be competent to sue, or liable to be sued, in
those courts." "But," it was added,
"the court does not mean to give an opinion in the case where
several parties represent several distinct interests, and some of
those parties are, and others are not, competent to sue, or liable
to be sued, in the courts of the United States."
In New Orleans v.
1 Wheat. 91, decided in 1816, a suit had
been brought in the District Court for the District of Louisiana by
the heirs of Elisha Winter, deceased, to recover possession of
certain lands under an alleged grant from the Spanish government.
One of the plaintiffs could sue in the courts of the United States,
but the others could not, and the question of jurisdiction in the
district court was raised. Chief Justice Marshall, in delivering
the opinion of the court, after referring to what had been decided
in Strawbridge v. Curtiss,
"In this case, it has been doubted whether the parties might
elect to sue jointly or severally. However this may be, having
elected to sue jointly, the court is incapable of distinguishing
their case, so far as respects jurisdiction, from one in which
Page 121 U. S. 633
they were compelled to unite."
It was consequently held that the district court had no
jurisdiction, and its judgment was reversed. This rule has been
adhered to steadily ever since: Barney v.
6 Wall. 280, 73 U. S. 287
Coal Company v.
11 Wall. 174; Sewing
18 Wall. 574, and in removal cases,
under § 2 of the act of 1875, it has uniformly been applied, unless
there is a separate controversy. Removal Cases,
100 U. S. 457
Blake v. McKim, 103 U. S. 336
Hyde v. Ruble, 104 U. S. 407
numerous cases since.
In the present case, the rights of each and all of the parties
depend on the alleged contract with Stone, and although, as between
themselves, they have separate and distinct interests, they join in
a suit to enforce an obligation which is common to all. There is
but a single cause of action, and while all the complainants need
not have joined in enforcing it, they have done so, and this, under
the rule in New Orleans v. Winter,
jurisdiction. It is therefore a suit to which citizens of Ohio are
parties on one side, and a citizen of Ohio a party on the other,
with interests so conflicting that the relief prayed cannot be had
without keeping them on opposite sides of the matter in dispute. It
follows that the circuit court was without jurisdiction, and could
not render a decree dismissing the bill on its merits. For this
reason, the decree must be reversed, Continental Insurance Co.
v. Rhoads, 119 U. S. 237
119 U. S. 239
and cases there cited; but as the error is attributable to the
present appellants, whose duty it was to make the jurisdiction
appear, the reversal will be at their costs in this Court.
Everhart v. Huntsville College, 120 U.
The decree is reversed, and the cause remanded, with
directions to dismiss the bill for want of jurisdiction, and