1. It is the duty of the district court to dismiss whenever it
appears to its satisfaction that the suit doe not really and
substantially involve the requisite jurisdictional amount.
Jud.Code, §§ 24, 37. P. 257 U. S.
Page 257 U. S. 217
2. When this question is raised by answer, the district court
will decide it upon the facts adduced, and this Court will review
the decision upon the evidence as one presenting a jurisdictional
question. P. 257 U. S.
3. In a suit to enjoin execution of an award for disabling
personal injuries, made under the California Compensation Act and
requiring present payments and future indemnity payments during a
maximum period, it was proven that the defendant was cured before
the bill as filed, so that the total liability was less than
$3,000, though it would have been more had his disability
continued, and that the award had been reduced accordingly by
action of the proper authority, upon his application, while the
suit was pending. Held
that the district court had no
jurisdiction. P. 257 U. S.
Direct appeal from a judgment of the district court dismissing,
after a hearing, for want of jurisdiction.
Page 257 U. S. 218
MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case is here solely upon the question of the jurisdiction
of the district court to entertain the suit. The bill was filed in
the district court by the North Pacific Steamship Company against
the Industrial Accident Commission of California, William T. Soley,
and H. I Mulcrevy, County Clerk of the City and County of San
Francisco. The bill alleged that the complainant was engaged in the
business of transportation in interstate commerce between various
points on the Pacific coast, and operated the steamer
that, on or about the 12th of June, 1916, the
said steamer, then in the navigable waters of the United States
loading cargo, had in its
Page 257 U. S. 219
employ the respondent, Soley, as a stevedore, and that said
Soley was injured by falling down a hatchway of the steamer; that,
on the 27th day of November, 1916, Soley filed an application with
the Industrial Accident Commission for damages under the
Compensation Act of California; that, after a hearing, the
Commission made the following award:
"1. Cash in hand the sum of two hundred eighty-one dollars and
twenty-five cents ($281.25), this amount being the sum of weekly
payments of said disability indemnity accrued up to and including
the 18th day of December, 1916, less, however, the sum of thirty
dollars ($30.00) to be deducted therefrom and paid to Herbert N.
Ellis as his attorney's fees, as attorney for the applicant
"2. the further sum of eleven dollars and twenty five cents
($11.25) per week payable weekly in advance beginning with the 19th
day of December, 1916, until the termination of said disability or
the further order of this Commission, the total of payment however
not to exceed two hundred and forty weeks."
"3. Cash in hand the sum of five hundred fifteen dollars and
thirty-five cents ($515.35) for medical and hospital services
rendered as follows."
Agnew Sanitarium . . . . . . . . $149.85
Dr. E. H. Crabtree . . . . . . . 152.00
Dr. Maynard C. Harding . . . . . 203.50
Dr. L. C. Kinney, for X-ray. . . 10.00
The bill averred that, by virtue of the award, the complainant
had been ordered to pay Soley $3,015.35.
The bill further alleged that, at the time of his injury, Soley
was engaged in the performance of a maritime contract aboard a
vessel in the navigable waters of the United States engaged in
interstate commerce; that his remedy was exclusively within the
admiralty and maritime jurisdiction
Page 257 U. S. 220
of the courts of the United States; that, under § 26 of the
Compensation Act, a certified copy of the findings and award may be
filed with the clerk of the Superior Court, and, that, upon filing
the copy of the findings and the award, execution may be issued
upon the judgment; that Soley had filed certified copies of the
findings and the award with the clerk of the Superior Court, and
unless restrained by injunction, would cause execution to be issued
thereon for the purpose of making the amount of the award out of
the property of the complainant. The bill prayed an injunction
against any steps for the enforcement of the award.
Respondent, Soley, appeared and answered, and, among other
things, set up:
"Defendant denies that the value of the matter in controversy
herein, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds the sum of three
thousand dollars, and alleges that the weekly indemnity of eleven
and 25/100 dollars awarded to defendant from complainant under the
terms of said award and judgment was contingent upon the
continuance of defendant's total disability, as appears at the foot
of page 4 of complainant's bill, and that, at the time of the
filing of complainant's bill herein, defendant's said total
disability had terminated, and all of complainant's subsequent
liability under the terms of said award of the Industrial Accident
Commission of the California had ceased; that the total liability
of complainant under said judgment sought herein to be enjoined
does not and will not exceed, exclusive of interest and costs, the
sum of thirteen hundred eighty-one and 60/100 dollars
In order that the district court have jurisdiction of the cause,
it was necessary that the amount in controversy exceed exclusive of
interest and costs the sum or value of $3,000. Judicial Code, § 24.
Section 37 of the Judicial Code provides that:
"if in any suit commenced in the district
Page 257 U. S. 221
court . . . , it shall appear to the satisfaction of the said
district court at any time after such suit has been brought . . .
that such suit does not really and substantially involve a dispute
or controversy properly within the jurisdiction of said district
court, . . . the . . . court shall proceed no further therein, but
shall dismiss the suit . . . and shall make such order as to costs
as may be just."
Section 37, with the substitution of district court for circuit
court, is a reenactment of the Act of March 3, 1875, c. 137, 18
Stat. 470, 472.
The objection that jurisdiction to entertain the suit did not
exist is one which may be taken by answer. Anderson v.
Watt, 138 U. S. 694
Indeed, under § 37, it is the duty of the court, when it shall
appear to its satisfaction that the suit does not really and
substantially involve the necessary amount to give it jurisdiction,
to dismiss the same, and this the court may do whether the parties
raise the question or not. In the present case, the issue was
raised by answer, and therefore it became necessary for the court
to determine the question of jurisdiction upon the facts presented,
and when brought directly here, it is the duty of this Court to
review the decision upon the testimony as one presenting a
jurisdictional question. Wetmore v. Rymer, 169 U.
, 169 U. S. 18
Sup.Ct. 293, 42 L. Ed. 682; Gilbert v. David, 235 U.
The award upon which the suit was brought provided for the
payment of $11.25 per week in advance beginning on September 19,
1916, until the termination of Soley's disability or the further
order of the Commission, the total period of payment not to exceed
240 weeks. Upon the hearing upon the question of jurisdiction, a
copy of the findings and award of the Commission was put in
evidence. Soley was called, and testified, among other things,
that, after his doctor told him that he was cured, he went back to
work on or about December 10, 1917, and had been working ever
since, and had made no claim upon
Page 257 U. S. 222
his employer since that time. An order of the Commission, filed
August 25, 1919, was introduced in evidence, from which the
Commission found that the disability suffered by Solely terminated
on the 10th day of December, 1917; that the disability indemnity
payable to him up to and including December 10, 1917, amounted to
$855, which, together with the medical expenses theretofore
awarded, amounted to $515.35, making a total of $1,307.35, the
total liability of the company to Soley by reason of his injury. It
was also stipulated between the parties that the award in favor of
Soley, a copy of which was in evidence, had been filed in the
office of the clerk of the City and County of San Francisco, that a
writ of execution had issued against the complainant on November
12, 1917, to satisfy said judgment to the extent of the amount
which had accrued under such findings and award, which was less
than $1,500; that said writ was returned unsatisfied; that the
application of Soley for the termination of the award was made on
August 20, 1919.
A witness was called who testified that, at the time of the
injury to Soley, the steamer Breakwater
was engaged in
interstate commerce between ports on the Pacific coast.
Upon these facts, the district court found that the
jurisdictional amount was not involved. In our judgment, it did not
err in reaching that conclusion. The award provided for weekly
payments until the termination of the disability or until the
further order of the Commission. The testimony showed that Solely
had been pronounced cured by his physician, and had returned to
work on December 10, 1917, eight days before the action was
brought. The order of the Commission, terminating the disability
indemnity, found that the disability suffered by reason of the
injury had terminated on December 10, 1917, and that the total
liability of the defendant was $1,307.35. Under
Page 257 U. S. 223
these circumstances, the court reached the conclusion that the
jurisdictional amount was not involved. This conclusion, being
sustained by the evidence, it was the duty of the court to proceed
no further with the case.