Law School Case Brief
Abdouch v. Lopez - 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134746 (D. Neb. Nov. 21, 2011)
A federal court not only has the power but also the obligation at any time to inquire into jurisdiction whenever the possibility that jurisdiction does not exist arises.
Plaintiff Helen Abdouch was a resident of Omaha, Nebraska. In 1960, Abdouch was the executive secretary of the Nebraska presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. In 1963, Abdouch received a copy of the book, which was inscribed to her personally by the book's late author, Richard Yates. At some point later, the book was stolen. Defendant Ken Lopez, a bookseller, bought the book in 2009 from a seller in Georgia and sold it that same year to a customer not in Nebraska. In 2011, Abdouch learned that Lopez had used the inscription in the book for advertising purposes on his Web site. Abdouch later filed a lawsuit in federal district court against Lopez, alleging that the district court had jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeded $75,000. However, Abdouch also alleged actual damages in the amount of $10,000, based on her distress over the invasion of her privacy and by the use of her name and identity for commercial purposes without her consent. Abdouch also sought compensatory damages and the cost of filing the action, but the complaint alleged no other specific amounts. The matter was before the court, sua sponte, to consider the court's jurisdiction over the matter.
Did the district court have jurisdiction over Abdouch's lawsuit?
The court ordered Abdouch to show cause why the matter should not be dismissed summarily for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that Abdouch's claim as stated in the complaint did not approach the jurisdictional minimum. Further, the nature of the claim did not suggest that a fact finder might legally and reasonably conclude Abdouch's damages exceeded the jurisdictional minimum. Abdouch failed to show any manner in which the court could find an amount in controversy greater than the amount sought in the complaint. Accordingly, the court found that the amount in controversy appeared insufficient to grant the court diversity jurisdiction.
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