Wetmore v. Rymer,
169 U.S. 115 (1898)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wetmore v. Rymer, 169 U.S. 115 (1898)

Wetmore v. Rymer

No. 76

Submitted November 1, 1897

Decided January 17, 1898

169 U.S. 115


In an action of ejectment the question whether the land in dispute is of sufficient value to give a circuit court jurisdiction is purely one of fact, and the statutes regulating jurisdiction leave the mode of trying such issues to the discretion of the trial judge.

Whether he elects to submit such issue to a jury, or to himself hear and determine it without the intervention of a jury, in either event the parties are not concluded by the judgment of the circuit court.

In this case, the question was passed upon by the court below on affidavits, and the judgment dismissing the action for want of jurisdiction is reviewable here.

A suit cannot properly be dismissed by a circuit court as not involving a controversy of an amount sufficient to come within its jurisdiction unless the facts, when made to appear on the record, create a legal certainty of that conclusion.

This was an action of ejectment, brought in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Tennessee to recover a tract of land in Polk County. The declaration alleged that the land was worth more than $2,000. The defendants disclaimed as to a portion of the

Page 169 U. S. 116

land and pleaded not guilty and the statute of limitations as to the remainder.

At the trial, after the plaintiffs' evidence was closed, the defendants moved the court to dismiss the plaintiffs' suit for want of jurisdiction, because it appeared that the matter in dispute did not exceed, exclusive of interest and costs, the sum or value of $2,000, but the court suspended action on this motion until the verdict of the jury should be rendered. The defendants then proceeded to introduce their evidence on the matters put in issue by the pleadings, and after argument of counsel and the charge of the court, the jury found a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs and assessed their damages for the detention of the premises at one dollar. Thereupon the court rendered judgment on the verdict, and a writ of possession and execution accordingly.

But immediately upon the rendition of the verdict and judgment, the court set them aside, entertained the defendants' motion to dismiss for want of jurisdiction, and gave leave to both parties to file affidavits showing the value of the land in controversy.

Upon consideration of the evidence heard on the trial, and of affidavits produced on behalf of the plaintiffs, the court, being of opinion that the value of the matter in dispute was less than $2,000, and that there was not a substantial controversy between the parties of sufficient value to be within the jurisdiction of the court, dismissed the suit for want of jurisdiction, and rendered judgment for costs against the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs excepted to this action of the court. A bill of exceptions was sealed, and a writ of error was allowed to this Court.

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