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Civil Procedure Sample Answer

The following is a sample answer to the Civil Procedure Practice Exam. If you have not already done so, take the exam and then compare your answer to this sample. If necessary, you can also review the Civil Procedure Rules of Law for this exam. Since law school professors vary in what they consider excellent work, this answer is only presented as a sample.


Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a district court may hear a case only if it has both personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction.


Personal Jurisdiction

Personal (in personam) jurisdiction is imposed over a defendant when both statutory and constitutional issues are met.

From statutory point of view, one of four situations must occur to impose in personam jurisdiction. The defendant must 1) be present in the forum when served, 2) domiciled there, 3) consents to jurisdiction or 4) the state's long arm statute provides for jurisdiction.

Since Donner Industries (D) is not present in the forum of X, Peter (P) must use the state's long arm statute to reach D. X's long arm statute provides for jurisdiction over a defendant whose tortious actions cause injury in X. In this case, the underlying tort-the defective manufacture of the A-5 rocket - occurred in Z. However, since the actual injury occurred in X, the state's statute properly provides for jurisdiction.

Constitutionally, the court has jurisdiction over D only if brining D into the forum state comports with the Due Process Clause. The Due Process Clause is satisfied if the defendant meet the minimum contacts test (International Shoe, Burger King) in order that the defendant has "such minimum contacts with the forum so that exercise of jurisdiction does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice."

Minimum contact has been interpreted by the courts as including two elements 1) actual contact and 2) fairness. Under the actual contact prong, the factors considered are purposeful availment and foreseeability. Under these facts, D could argue that it did not purposefully avail itself directly to X residents because it did not sell directly to any hobby stores or to any hobbyists in the state. Furthermore, it does not advertise, therefore D could claim that it does not try to benefit from the state's consumers, and it was not foreseeable that it would be drawn into the state's court.

P, however, has a compelling argument that by merely selling its products to a national distributor in New York City, D knew or should have known that its rockets - a potentially dangerous item by its very nature - would be put into the stream of commerce nationwide. D will counter that even if was foreseeable that it might be called into Y, it was not foreseeable that X residents would cross the border into Y. In addition, the A-5 was never sold in X, therefore D could not have foreseen an action in this forum. However, the mere fact that the rocket was advertised on a State Y radio station suggests that Henry's Hobby Store (H) was reaching across to X citizens. P will argue that given the strength of the signal of some radio stations, it was foreseeable to D that stores in one state using the D-produced advertising would reach across borders into other states. Therefore, I think that the purposeful availment and foreseeability tests for contact have been met in these circumstances.

Fairness is tested by looking at factors such as 1) how close the relationship is between the claim and the contact, 2) whether the forum is convenient and 3) the state's interest. Here the evidence suggests that it is fair to call D into court in X. The injuries were a direct result of faulty design. But for the sale of the rocket to P, the damage would not have occurred. Therefore, the relatedness factor is satisfied. The forum is arguably as convenient as Y and bears no great burden to D. Given the wide availability of nationwide flights, D will have no great burden to appear before the X Federal District Court. In addition, the sate has a great interest in seeing that its citizens are protected from faulty design in potentially dangerous products such as model rockets.

Given all of these factors, it is reasonable to conclude that bringing D within the forum is both fair to the defendant and meets the minimum contacts test, therefore in personam jurisdiction is proper under these circumstances.


Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A defendant can be drawn into Federal court only if the subject matter of the claim is within its jurisdiction. Typically, cases fall into one of two classes - federal question and diversity of citizenship. Since there doesn't appear to be any federal law impacted here, we will proceed to analyzing this case on diversity issues.

Diversity of citizenship cases require that the plaintiff and defendant be citizens of different states and that the amount in controversy be over $75,000.

In the case of citizenship, the diversity must be complete. Citizenship for a person is determined by domicile. Here, all facts point to P being a citizen of X since he lives there, presumably with an intent to remain indefinitely. Citizenship for a corporation is determined by its state of incorporation and its principal place of business. Since D is incorporated in Delaware but operates only in Z, it has dual citizenship in both Delaware and Z. Since neither the plaintiff nor the defendant are citizens of the same state, the first prong of diversity jurisdiction is met.

The amount in controversy requires that the plaintiff make a good faith allegation that the claim exceeds $75,000. Here, P has aggregated three types of damages - none of which is over $75,000. However, since the damages all relate to the same case and since there is only one plaintiff and one defendant, P can aggregate his claims against D in order to meet the jurisdictional limit. The good faith requirement merely means there is a legal basis for the assessment of potential damages. If D is found liable for the tortious act, it is reasonable to conclude that they may have to pay damages for all three of the claims since property damage, personal damage and lost wages are likely results from a rocket that was not correctly designed.

Consequently, the defendant is subject to both personal and subject matter jurisdiction and may be properly brought before the X District Court.


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