28 U.S.C.S. § 1332(a)(1) confers upon federal courts jurisdiction over civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $ 10,000 and is between citizens of different states.
Respondent widow filed a wrongful-death action for her husband's electrocution against a power company. The power company filed a third-party complaint against petitioner equipment company. Summary judgment was granted for the power company, and the case went to trial between the widow and the equipment company. The equipment company appealed the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit's affirmation of the district court's denial of its motion to dismiss. On appeal, the Court held that it was undisputed that there was no independent basis of federal jurisdiction over the widow's state-law tort action against the equipment company because both were citizens of Iowa. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals.
In an action in which federal jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, may the plaintiff assert a claim against a third-party defendant when there is no independent basis for federal jurisdiction over that claim?
The widow's claim against the equipment company was entirely separate from her original claim against the power company, where the equipment company's liability to the widow depended not at all upon whether or not the power company was also liable. The nonfederal claim was asserted by the widow, who voluntarily chose to bring suit upon a state-law claim in a federal court. The Court held that the district court lacked power to entertain the widow's lawsuit against the equipment company. Thus, the asserted inequity in the equipment company's alleged concealment of its citizenship was irrelevant.