Troy Bank v. G. A. Whitehead & Co.

222 U.S. 39, 32 S. Ct. 9 (1911)

 

RULE:

When two or more plaintiffs, having separate and distinct demands, unite for convenience and economy in a single suit, it is essential that the demand of each be of the requisite jurisdictional amount; but when several plaintiffs unite to enforce a single title or right, in which they have a common and undivided interest, it is enough if their interests collectively equal the jurisdictional amount.

FACTS:

Upon a sale of land, the vendor lawfully reserved a vendor's lien for the unpaid portion of the purchase price, for which he took two promissory notes of $1,200 each. The notes were assigned to appellants, one to each, and the vendor's lien passed to appellants as a common security for the payment of both notes, without any priority of right in either assignee. The defendant acquired the land with notice of the lien. After the maturity of the notes, both remaining wholly unpaid, appellants jointly brought a suit to enforce the vendor's lien.  The circuit court dismissed the action, holding that the claim did not meet the requisite jurisdictional amount of $2,000. On appeal, the Supreme Court of the United Statest reversed the judgment.

ISSUE:

Did two plaintiffs, each holding a promissory note of $1,200, for the purpose of enforcing the same lien over a property, meet the jurisdictional value of $2,000 so as to enable the circuit court to acquire jurisdiction over their action?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The circuit court had jurisdiction of a suit brought by several plaintiffs to enforce a vendor's lien. The controlling object was the enforcement of the vendor's lien, which was a single thing or entity in which plaintiffs had a common and undivided interest, and which neither could enforce in the absence of the other. Thus, while their claims under the notes were separate and distinct, their claim under the vendor's lien was single and undivided, and the lien was sought to be enforced as a common security for the payment of both notes. If followed that the circuit court erred in holding that it was without jurisdiction.

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