Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Services, Inc.
545 U.S. 546 (2005)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Opinion (Anthony M. Kennedy)  | 
  • Dissent (John Paul Stevens)  | 
  • Dissent (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)




certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 04–70.Argued March 1, 2005—Decided June 23, 2005

In No. 04–70, Exxon dealers filed a class action against Exxon Corporation, invoking the Federal District Court’s 28 U. S. C. §1332(a) diversity jurisdiction. After the dealers won a jury verdict, the court certified the case for interlocutory review on the question whether it had properly exercised §1367 supplemental jurisdiction over the claims of class members who had not met §1332(a)’s minimum amount-in-controversy requirement. The Eleventh Circuit upheld this extension of supplemental jurisdiction. In No. 04–79, a girl and her family sought damages from Star-Kist Foods, Inc., in a diversity action. The District Court granted Star-Kist summary judgment, finding that none of the plaintiffs had met the amount-in-controversy requirement. The First Circuit ruled that the girl, but not her family, had alleged the requisite amount, and then held that supplemental jurisdiction over the family’s claims was improper because original jurisdiction is lacking in a diversity case if one plaintiff fails to satisfy the amount-in-controversy requirement.

Held: Where the other elements of jurisdiction are present and at least one named plaintiff in the action satisfies §1332(a)’s amount-in-controversy requirement, §1367 authorizes supplemental jurisdiction over the claims of other plaintiffs in the same Article III case or controversy, even if those claims are for less than the requisite amount. Pp. 4–25.

   (a) Although district courts may not exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis, once a court has original jurisdiction over some claims in an action, it may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over additional claims arising from the same case or controversy. See Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U. S. 715. This expansive interpretation does not apply to §1332’s complete diversity requirement, for incomplete diversity destroys original jurisdiction with respect to all claims, leaving nothing to which supplemental claims can adhere. But other statutory prerequisites, including the federal-question and amount-in-controversy requirements, can be analyzed claim by claim. Before §1367 was enacted, every plaintiff had to separately satisfy the amount-in-controversy requirement, Clark v. Paul Gray, Inc., 306 U. S. 583; Zahn v. International Paper Co., 414 U. S. 291, and the grant of original jurisdiction over claims involving particular parties did not itself confer supplemental jurisdiction over additional claims involving other parties, Finley v. United States, 490 U. S. 545, 556. Pp. 4–9.

   (b) All parties here agree that §1367 overturned Finley, but there is no warrant for assuming that is all it did. To determine §1367’s scope requires examination of the statute’s text in light of context, structure, and related statutory provisions. Section 1367(a) is a broad grant of supplemental jurisdiction over other claims within the same case or controversy, as long as the action is one in which district courts would have original jurisdiction. Its last sentence makes clear that this grant extends to claims involving joinder or intervention of additional parties. The question here is whether a diversity case in which the claims of some, but not all, plaintiffs satisfy the amount-in-controversy requirement qualifies as a “civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction,” §1367(a). Pp. 9–11.

   (c) The answer must be yes. When a well-pleaded complaint has at least one claim satisfying the amount-in-controversy requirement, and there are no other relevant jurisdictional defects, the district court, beyond all question, has original jurisdiction over that claim. A court with original jurisdiction over a single claim in the complaint has original jurisdiction over a “civil action” under §1367(a), even if that action comprises fewer claims than were included in the complaint. Once a court has original jurisdiction over the action, it can then decide whether it has a constitutional and statutory basis for exercising supplemental jurisdiction over other claims in the action. Section 1367(b), which contains exceptions to §1367(a)’s broad rule, does not withdraw supplemental jurisdiction over the claims of the additional parties here. In fact, its exceptions support this Court’s conclusion. Pp. 11–13.

   (d) The Court cannot accept the alternative view, or its supporting theories, that a district court lacks original jurisdiction over a civil action unless it has original jurisdiction over every claim in the complaint. The “indivisibility theory”—that all claims must stand or fall as a single, indivisible action—is inconsistent with the whole notion of supplemental jurisdiction and is belied by this Court’s practice of allowing federal courts to cure jurisdictional defects by dismissing the offending parties instead of the entire action. And the statute’s broad and general language does not permit the theory to apply in diversity cases when it does not apply in federal-question cases. The “contamination theory”—that inclusion of a claim or party falling outside the district court’s original jurisdiction contaminates every other claim in the complaint—makes sense with respect to the complete diversity requirement because a nondiverse party’s presence eliminates the justification for a federal forum. But it makes little sense with regard to the amount-in-controversy requirement, which is meant to ensure that a dispute is sufficiently important to warrant federal-court attention. It is fallacious to suppose, simply from the proposition that §1332 imposes both requirements, that the contamination theory germane to the former also applies to the latter. This Court has already considered and rejected a virtually identical argument in the closely analogous removal-jurisdiction context. See Chicago v. International College of Surgeons, 522 U. S. 156. Pp. 13–19.

   (e) In light of the statute’s text and structure, §1367’s only plausible reading is that a court has original jurisdiction over a civil action comprising the claims for which there is no jurisdictional defect. Though a single nondiverse party can contaminate every other claim in a lawsuit, contamination does not occur with respect to jurisdictional defects going only to the substantive importance of individual claims. Thus, §1367(a)’s threshold requirement is satisfied in cases, such as these, where some but not all of the plaintiffs in a diversity action allege a sufficient amount in controversy. Section 1367 by its plain text overruled Clark and Zahn and authorized supplemental jurisdiction over all claims by diverse parties arising out of the same case or controversy, subject only to enumerated exceptions not applicable here. P. 19.

   (f) Because §1367 is not ambiguous, this Court need not examine other interpretative tools, including legislative history. Even were it appropriate to do so, the Court would not give the legislative history significant weight. Pp. 19–24.

   (g) The Class Action Fairness Act has no impact on the analysis of these cases. Pp. 24–25.

No. 04–70, 333 F. 3d 1248, affirmed; and No. 04–79, 370 F. 3d 124, reversed and remanded.

   Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Scalia, Souter, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens, O’Connor, and Breyer, JJ., joined.

 Together with No. 04–79, del Rosario Ortega et al. v. Star-Kist Foods, Inc., on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Primary Holding
Federal courts have supplemental jurisdiction over a claim that does not meet the amount in controversy requirement for federal diversity jurisdiction if it is attached to a related claim that does meet the requirement.
Circuit courts disagreed over the application of the federal supplemental jurisdiction statute, found at 28 U.S.C. Section 1367. The group of cases that were consolidated for review included an action brought by 10,000 gas dealers who were suing Exxon Mobil Corp. for overcharging them for fuel purchases. The lower court ruled for the dealers, and the appellate court agreed with the rule stated in the Primary Holding above.

In a personal injury case involving a nine-year-old girl who hurt her finger on a can of Star-Kist tuna, meanwhile, a different federal district court dismissed the action on the grounds that it did not have jurisdiction under a theory of diversity. It stated that this was based on the failure of some claims to meet the minimum amount in controversy requirement. On appeal, only the girl's individual claim was allowed to proceed.



  • Anthony M. Kennedy (Author)
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist
  • Antonin Scalia
  • David H. Souter
  • Clarence Thomas

As long as original jurisdiction exists over one of the claims in a case, courts have the authority to claim supplemental jurisdiction over the other claims. The theories of indivisibility and contamination are inapplicable because they are incompatible with the concept of supplemental jurisdiction and the amount in controversy requirement. The text of the statute shows a clear intent for jurisdiction to cover all of the claims, no matter what the legislative history or other materials may suggest.


  • John Paul Stevens (Author)
  • Stephen G. Breyer


  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Author)
  • John Paul Stevens
  • Sandra Day O'Connor
  • Stephen G. Breyer

Case Commentary

This case overruled a precedent in the same area and expanded in the scope of diversity jurisdiction in an area of litigation that has become increasingly prevalent.

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