Yeazell, pp. 242-244: Note: Amount in Controversy


The amount in controversy requirement keeps small-potatoes diversity cases out of federal court.  However, we must really really believe that the plaintiff has no shot at getting $75,000.01 before we’re going to keep him from getting into federal court on that basis.


1.     But what if the plaintiff wants some kind of equity relief?  Can we put a price tag on it?  There are a few different approaches:

a.      How much is the injunction worth to the plaintiff?  Greater than $75,000?

b.     How much would it cost for the defendant to comply?  Greater than $75,000?

c.     Which party is invoking federal jurisdiction?  Is the plaintiff bringing the suit in federal court, or is the defendant trying to remove from state to federal court?  We can base the cost/value on whoever is doing the federalizing.

2.     Can a plaintiff stick some claims together to get over the magic $75,000 hump?

a.      If you have two or more unrelated claims against the same defendant, you can stick ‘em together.

b.     If two plaintiffs have claims against a single defendant, they can’t stick ‘em together.

c.     If one plaintiff has a big money claim and a second plaintiff has a little money claim against the same defendant, the first plaintiff obviously gets in for being over the $75,000.  What about the second dude?  If the claims are related, the second dude can get in too, at least in the Seventh Circuit.

d.     If a bunch of people are fighting over the same particular stuff, and the stuff is worth more than $75,000, you’ll let the whole gang into federal court unless the different plaintiffs have different claims.

e.      It’s more complex if you have a class action.  At least one of the class plaintiffs must have over $75,000 at stake.  Some courts have ruled that every class plaintiff must have over $75,000.  However, since § 1367, some lower courts have said that this has now changed.

3.     I don’t know the difference between a compulsory counterclaim and a permissive counterclaim (now I do!  See #4), but the former gets in if the original claim is big enough, while the latter needs some other basis for jurisdiction.  But nobody’s sure whether the bigness of the defendant’s counterclaim can get you in the door federally.


a.      This is no good because the amount in controversy must be greater than $75,000.  Mas must sue for $75,000.01.

b.     Mas is good to go, however, Perry’s claim can only go forward in federal court if it is a “compulsory counterclaim”.  Oh wait, I see…a compulsory counterclaim is one that you couldn’t possibly bring in a separate suit later.  Perry’s claim is permissive, not compulsory, and so it will be dismissed.  Perry could just as well sue in state court for the unpaid rent.

c.     This is fine: you can add up unrelated claims against the same defendant.

d.     These are two different plaintiffs with two unrelated claims.  They can’t stick ‘em together.

e.      I think they can stick ‘em together because both plaintiffs are suing to protect the same right/interest.  Also, it would make sense to grant diversity jurisdiction here on efficiency grounds.


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