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Hanna v. Plumer

(1965)

Supreme Court of the United States - 380 U.S. 460, 85 S.Ct. 1136, 14 L.Ed.2d 8, 380 U.S. 460, 85 S. Ct. 1136, 14 L. Ed. 2d 8, SCDB 1964-076, 1965 U.S. LEXIS 1350

tl;dr:

Focus on the purpose of the Erie Doctrine to narrow the outcome determinative application further, and apply federal law only when it is truly procedural (even if the outcome is affected).

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Case Summary

In the 1965 case, Hanna v. Plumer, the US Supreme Court addressed a conflict between federal rules and state laws regarding service of process. The case reached the highest federal court after lower courts dismissed a lawsuit against an estate executor for not following state law requiring personal service. Hanna, the plaintiff, argued that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 (d) (1), which allowed service by leaving copies at the defendant's dwelling, should apply.

The main question was whether federal rules or state law should govern service of process in a diversity action. The court decided that the federal rule should apply because it followed the Rules Enabling Act and the Constitution. The court also found that the federal rule did not violate Article III or the Tenth Amendment, which limit federal courts' power and reserve powers for the states.

The Erie doctrine, which requires federal courts to apply state law in diversity cases, was deemed inapplicable if corresponding federal rules were valid. The court rejected a mechanical formula for the outcome-determination test and highlighted policies aiming to discourage forum shopping and ensure fair administration of laws.

Hanna v. Plumer is significant as it demonstrates how courts interpret federal rules and state laws in diversity cases and apply the Erie doctrine. Additionally, it shows how courts balance uniformity and federalism in civil procedures. The influential case features an opinion by Chief Justice Warren.

ICRAIssue, Conclusion, Rule, Analysis for Hanna v. Plumer

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Facts & HoldingHanna v. Plumer case brief facts & holding

Facts:Hanna (Ohio citizen) was in a car accident with Plumer...

Holding:The district court should follow Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(1)...

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Hanna v. Plumer | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: Mr. Chief Justice Warren
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The Supreme Court ruled that Rule 4(d)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is the standard for measuring the adequacy of service of process in civil actions based on diversity of citizenship. The Court clarified that federal courts sitting in diversity cases are bound by state court decisions and statutes when deciding questions of substantive law, but the question is not whether a law is deemed a matter of procedure, but whether disregarding a state law would significantly affect the result of a litigation for a federal court. The Court rejected the argument that the Erie doctrine requires federal courts to apply state law whenever application of federal law will alter the outcome of the case. The inquiry should focus on substantial variations between state and federal litigation, as trivial variations are unlikely to raise equal protection issues or influence forum choice.

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Opinion (Concurrence), author: Mr. Justice Harlan
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Justice Harlan, concurring with the Court's opinion in Erie, believes that the Court has not adequately addressed past decisions relied upon by lower courts and has misunderstood the constitutional basis of Erie. He suggests that the Court needs to establish a more effective doctrine for choice of law in diversity cases. Erie is a cornerstone of federalism, recognizing the importance of having one system of law governing primary private activity in diversity cases to avoid uncertainty and hindered planning. The author disagrees with the decision in Ragan, arguing that the federal system's interest in proceeding under its own rules should have prevailed, as the choice of the Federal Rule would have had minimal impact on behavior following the commission of the tort.

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