MOUNGEY v. BRANDT No. C-65-97.
250 F.Supp. 445 (1966)
Jean Marie MOUNGEY, Plaintiff, v. Lester BRANDT, Henry J. Altschwager, Jr., and Ralph E. Plantenberg, Defendants.
United States District Court W. D. Wisconsin.
February 10, 1966.
Lloyd J. Paust, Columbus, Wis., for defendant Plantenberg.
The complaint reveals no diversity of citizenship. The jurisdiction of this court is invoked by the allegation that this is an action "arising under the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, as amended, 72 Stat. 731; 49 U.S.C.A., Title Transportation, Sections 1301-End." It is also alleged that the matter in controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds the sum or value of $10,000. The plaintiff alleges that, as a passenger in an airplane, she was injured as a result of the negligence of the defendants. It is alleged that the airplane had been certified in accordance with Civil Air Regulations to a partnership consisting of the defendants. It is further alleged that the accident was caused by one of the defendants in operating the aircraft negligently in that he violated several safety regulations promulgated by the Federal Aviation Agency pursuant to the Federal Aviation Act.
Separate motions for dismissal have been filed by the defendant Plantenberg and by the defendants Brandt and Altschwager. The grounds for dismissal as stated in the two motions are: (a) that this court lacks jurisdiction because an action by the same plaintiff against the same defendants, apparently dealing with the same subject matter, had previously been commenced in the Circuit Court for Columbia County, Wisconsin; (b) that the complaint fails to state a cause of action which arises under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States; and (c) that the complaint fails to state a claim against defendants upon which relief can be granted.
EFFECT OF COLUMBIA COUNTY ACTION
The complaint herein was filed with the clerk on August 6, 1965. Service of the summons and complaint was made upon each of the three defendants by the United States Marshal on August 17, 1965. On August 10, 1965, there was served upon each of these same defendants a summons in an action in the Circuit Court of Columbia County, Wisconsin, in which the same plaintiff and the same defendants were named. Defendants assume that the subject matter of the two actions is identical, although this cannot be established from the summons served in the state court action. Having made this assumption, the defendants contend, apparently on the principle of priority, that the state court action was commenced prior to the commencement of this action in the federal court, and that the federal court action must yield to the state court action. For the purpose of this opinion, we will also assume, without deciding, that the subject matter of the two actions is identical.
As between the federal and state courts, the principle of priority is applied only to actions in rem and not to actions in personam. 20 Am.Jur.2d, Section 135; Penn General Casualty Co. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
See also Grubb v. Public Utilities Commission,
Even if the principle of priority were to be applied to this in personam action, however, the federal action would enjoy priority. In the federal courts, a civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court. Rule 3, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Thus the federal court action was commenced August 6. In Wisconsin courts a civil action is commenced by the service
Therefore, the commencement of the action in the state court does not require the dismissal of this action in the federal court.
WHETHER MATTER IN CONTROVERSY ARISES UNDER LAWS OF UNITED STATES
The defendants' motions are somewhat ambiguously put:
However the motions may have been stated, the threshold question appears to be jurisdictional; that is, whether the matter in controversy "arises under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C., Sec. 1331 (a). There is no need here to recite the long history of the effort to fix the meaning of the words "arises under" in this historic statute. Wright, Handbook of the Law of Federal Courts (1963), pp. 48-52. We construe them to mean that the rule of substance under which the plaintiff claims the right to have a remedy must be the product of federal law; her claim for relief must be founded "directly" on the laws of the United States. Wechsler, "Federal Jurisdiction and the Revision of the Judicial Code", 13 Law and Contemp.Prob. 216, 225 (1948); Mishkin, "The Federal `Question' in the District Courts", 53 Columbia L.Rev. 157, 165 (1953). Whether these tests are met is to be determined solely by looking to the allegations of the complaint. Gully v. First Nat. Bank,
The complaint alleges: that the action arises under the Federal Aviation Act, as amended, 72 Stat. 731; 49 U.S.C., "Sections 1301-End"; that the defendants, as a partnership or joint venture, were doing business "as a business and pleasure aircraft company", using the registered airplane in question in this business; that at the time of the accident the plaintiff was a passenger for hire in the said airplane; that plaintiff was
The first item of alleged negligence consists in defendant Brandt's failure, while acting as pilot, to have in his possession a pilot certificate, in violation of Section 43.40 of the Civil Air Regulations.
It is true that it may be difficult to prove a causal connection between the pilot's failure then to have in his possession a pilot's license or a medical certificate, on the one hand, and the faulty approach, on the other, unless (as the complaint does not allege) he was in fact untrained or physically unfit. It is also true that it may be difficult to prove a causal connection between the absence of forward and rear position lights, on the one hand, and a faulty approach, on the other. If only these items of alleged negligence were alleged, we would be disposed to regard as inadequate the allegation that the rule of substance under which plaintiff claims her remedy is founded directly on laws of the United States.
However, given the opportunity, plaintiff may be able to establish a causal connection between the pilot's alleged failure sufficiently to practice nighttime landings during the preceding 90 days, on the one hand, and the alleged faulty approach, on the other. Also, although the generality and vagueness of both the complaint and the regulation are troublesome in this respect, plaintiff's
"* * * [T]he party who brings a suit is master to decide what law he will rely upon and therefore does determine whether he will bring a `suit arising under' the patent or other law of the United States by his declaration or bill." The Fair v. Kohler Die Co., 33 S.Ct. 410,
AVAILABILITY OF FEDERAL RELIEF SOUGHT
By her pleading, plaintiff may compel the court to take jurisdiction. Once in court, however, she cannot dictate the relief she may receive. She may fail because, as a matter of law, the facts alleged in her complaint do not entitle her to the relief she seeks. This requires a judgment on the merits, as distinct from a jurisdictional determination, to which we now turn. Bell v. Hood,
None of the provisions of the federal statutes upon which plaintiff relies, and none of the administrative regulations thereunder upon which plaintiff relies, expressly creates the remedy of damages at the suit of a party allegedly injured as a result of a violation of the statutes or regulations. The statutory scheme is to authorize the Administrator to promulgate safety regulations. 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1421. One of the regulations, as noted above, provides: "No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another." 14 C.F.R., Chap. I, Part 91.9. "It shall be unlawful" for any person to violate any of the regulations. 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1430. Such a violation is "subject to a civil penalty of not to exceed $1000 for each such violation." 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1471. Provision is made for the collection of such a penalty. 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1473. Aggrieved persons may file complaints with the Agency; this administrative procedure can result only in orders of prospective application. 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1482. The Administrator may reinspect aircraft and re-examine airmen, from time to time, and may amend, suspend, or revoke certificates and licenses, whether for equipment or personnel. 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1429; 14 C.F.R., Chap. I, Part 13.19. He may seize the aircraft. 14 C.F.R., Chap. I, Part 13.17. The Board or Administrator (and, with respect to 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1371, providing for certificates of public convenience and necessity, any party in interest) may apply to a United States district court for injunctive relief against any person violating the statutes or regulations, and United States Attorneys may bring proceedings for the enforcement of the statutes and regulations and for the punishment of violations. 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1487.
Section 1506 of Title 49, U.S.C., provides: "Nothing contained in this chapter shall in any way abridge or alter the remedies now existing at common law or by statute, but the provisions of this chapter are in addition to such remedies."
From the foregoing it is clear that if the statutes comprising and affecting the safety features of the Federal Aviation Program, or the administrative regulations thereunder,
"Increasingly, the tendency in the federal courts has been to infer private rights of action from federal statutes unless to do so would defeat manifest congressional purpose." Brennan, J., dissenting in Wheeldin v. Wheeler,
Traditional doctrines governing the implication of civil remedies by statutes making certain conduct criminal or subjecting certain conduct to civil penalties (A.L.I., Restatement of Torts—Negligence (1934), Sections 286-288; Morris, "The Relation of Criminal Statutes to Tort Liability", 46 Harvard L.Rev. 453 (1933); Note, "The Use of Criminal Statutes in the Creation of New Torts", 48 Columbia L.Rev. 456 (1948)) may require modification in a federal system. Thus, the implication of a civil remedy by a federal regulatory statute may bring to the federal district courts litigation which might better remain in the state courts.
Many factors obviously affect the proper apportionment of judicial functions as between federal district courts and state courts. When no national interest compels that certain litigation be brought to the federal district court, when a wholly satisfactory state forum is available to the parties, and when the Constitution of the United States and the federal statutes permit the federal court to choose whether to receive the case, there is much to be said for withholding a federal remedy. Note, "Implying Civil Remedies from Regulatory Statutes", 77 Harv.L.Rev. 285, 292-294 (1963).
The national interest in safety in civil aeronautics is adequately protected by the network of statutory and administrative procedures and sanctions expressly created by the Federal Aviation Program, as outlined above. No persuasive reason suggests itself why the efficacy of the Program need be fortified by the creation, by implication, of a civil remedy in the federal court. This plaintiff may sue, indeed she apparently has done so, in the state courts. By 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1506, Congress expressed its intention that remedies existing "at common law or by statute" not be abridged or altered. No inadequacies in the state remedy have been called to our attention, and we are aware of none. In this respect, among others, the case differs from Wills v. Trans World Airlines, Inc.,
These considerations were not discussed in Neiswonger, supra. There the complaint alleged that a dirigible had been operated at an altitude lower than the 500-foot minimum set by the Secretary of Commerce pursuant to the Air Commerce Act of 1926. As a result, a team of horses had been frightened, and plaintiff's injuries resulted. The federal district court overruled a demurrer to the complaint, holding that the plaintiff was in the class of persons intended to be benefited by the 500-foot rule, "and that his right to recover damages for its violation, though not expressed, is implied."
In Mozingo v. Consolidated Construction Company,
We consider that the court in Neiswonger was too readily disposed to infer the civil remedy from the Air Commerce Act of 1926, and the regulation promulgated thereunder by the Secretary of Commerce, when the consequence was to bring to the federal district court an action more appropriately determinable in the state court. In our view, such an inference from the statutes comprising and affecting the safety regulation features of the Federal Aviation Program, and from administrative regulations thereunder, should be drawn no more readily than with respect to the Safety Appliance Act. 45 U.S.C., Sec. 1 et seq. With respect to the Safety Appliance Act, governing railroads, the implication of a civil remedy for a passenger injured because of a violation of the Act has been denied. Jacobson v. New York, N. H. & H. R. Co.,
Plaintiff's principal reliance is on Fitzgerald, supra. There were factors, noted in the opinion of the Court of Appeals, which significantly distinguish the case from ours. The issue arose under the economic regulation sections of the Federal Aviation Program (49 U.S.C., Secs. 1371-1387), rather than the safety regulation sections as here. Title 49, U.S.C., Sec. 1304 contains this declaration:
The complaint in Fitzgerald alleged that plaintiffs had been prevented from continuing a certain flight in their assigned first class seats, and that the refusal was motivated by racial and color prejudice, in violation of 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1374 (b), which provides:
This explanation might have served adequately the Court's reversal of the district court's order granting a motion to dismiss the complaint. Had the civil remedy not been inferred, plaintiffs might have been left without a remedy in any forum; possibly, they might have found a remedy in the courts of some states, but not in those of others. To vindicate the national interest in the "public right of freedom of transit", declared in 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1304, it may well have been necessary to fortify the criminal sanction (see 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1472) attaching to a violation of 49 U.S. C., Sec. 1374(b), by inferring a civil remedy enforcible in a federal district court.
Unfortunately, the Court expressed the view that such considerations were not controlling. 229 F.2d, at 502. Its holding was straightforward (229 F.2d, at 501-502):
Having concluded that 49 U.S.C., Sec. 1374(b) created a new federal right, the Court went on to hold that a suit based upon such right is within 28 U.S.C., Sec. 1331, and perhaps Sec. 1337.
To the extent that the Court in Fitzgerald chose to infer the civil remedy without reference to a peculiarly national interest in thus effectuating the policies of the Act, and without reference to the unavailability or inadequacy of remedies in the state court, we decline to follow its lead.
We hold that the complaint herein fails to state a cause of action upon which a remedy can be awarded to the plaintiff in this court.
DOCTRINE OF PENDENT JURISDICTION
Presumably, this complaint states a cause of action under Wisconsin law for personal injury caused by defendants' negligence. Having disposed of the asserted federal cause of action adversely, on motion, before defendants have answered and before the trial stage, we are not obliged, by the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction, to deal with the possible cause of action under Wisconsin law. Wojtas v. Village of Niles,
Should another court be called upon to evaluate the effect of our order herein upon a possible cause of action under Wisconsin law, our intention should be noted that the dismissal of this action is without prejudice to such a possible cause of action in the state court.
This action is dismissed on the ground that the complaint fails to state a cause of action upon which a remedy can be awarded to the plaintiff in this court.
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