Coal Company v. Blatchford
Annotate this Case
78 U.S. 172 (1870)
U.S. Supreme Court
Coal Company v. Blatchford, 78 U.S. 11 Wall. 172 172 (1870)
Coal Company v. Blatchford
78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 172
1. In controversies between citizens of different states, where the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States depends upon the citizenship of the parties, if there are several co-plaintiffs, each plaintiff must be competent to sue, and, if there are several co-defendants, each defendant must be liable to be sued in those courts, or the jurisdiction cannot be entertained.
2. Executors and trustees suing for others' benefit form no exception to this rule. If they are personally qualified by their citizenship to bring suit in the courts of the United States, the jurisdiction is not defeated by the fact that the parties whom they represent may be disqualified, and if they are not personally qualified by their citizenship, the courts of the United States will not entertain jurisdiction, although the parties they represent may be qualified.
3. The cases of Browne v. Strode, 5 Cranch 303, and McNutt v. Bland, 2 How. 10, commented upon and explained.
4. When the citizenship of the parties is averred in the bill of complaint, and it thus appears that some of the plaintiffs are disqualified by their citizenship from maintaining the suit, the defect may be taken advantage of by demurrer, or without demurrer, on motion, at any stage of the proceedings. A plea in abatement is required only when the citizenship averred is such as to support the jurisdiction of the court and the defendant desires to controvert the averment.
The eleventh section of the Judiciary Act enacts:
"That the circuit courts shall have original cognizance . . . of all suits of a civil nature &c., where an alien is a party or the suit is between a citizen of the state where the suit is brought and a citizen of another state."
With this provision in force, R. M. Blatchford and J. B. Newman filed their bill for the foreclosure of a mortgage executed by the Susquehanna & Wyoming Valley Railroad & Coal Company to them as trustees, to secure the payment of the company's bonds and for the sale of the mortgaged property. The mortgage conferred upon the plaintiffs the usual rights and powers of mortgagees, and contained stipulations authorizing them to use different
remedies in case default was made in the payments provided.
The bill stated that the defendant was a corporation created and organized under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania; that the plaintiff, Blatchford was a citizen of the State of New York; that the plaintiff, Newman, was a citizen of the State of Pennsylvania, and that they as trustees sued solely for the use of Henry Beckett, an alien and a subject of the Queen of Great Britain, and Joseph Loyd, a citizen of New Jersey, both residing in New Jersey. The defendant demurred to the bill on the ground that the plaintiff Newman and the defendant corporation, being citizens of the same state, the court had not jurisdiction of the cause. The court overruled the demurrer, and an answer and replication having been filed, the case was heard on the pleadings and a decree rendered for the plaintiffs. From this decree the appeal was taken, and the question presented for consideration here was whether the jurisdiction of the federal court depended upon the citizenship of the trustees, who were the plaintiffs, or of the parties for whose benefit the suit was averred to have been brought.