Prince’s Briefcase: DioGuardi v. Durning (Glannon Civil Procedure)


Prof. Joseph Glannon, Civil Procedure: Pleadings

Here is a case from my Civil Procedure class which teaches the concept of bringing a lawsuit into trial court. This case explains how an unclear cry for help can grant a plaintiff relief under the law.

Case Name, Citation #, Author
Dioguardi v. Durning, 139 F. 2d 774 (2d Cir. 1944), Clark

prince's briefcaseProcedural History
Plaintiff (Dioguardi) files a complaint asserting that the Defendant wrongly sold his merchandise to a bidder and falsely took away his merchandise (water tonic bottles) three weeks before bidding. Plaintiff claims $5,000 in damages against Defendant. Trial court dismisses the complaint. Plaintiff then amended complaint based on “medicinal extracts” but the trial court again dismiss it. The Plaintiff appeals.

Facts

  • Plaintiff imports tonics from Italy.
  • Plaintiff claims Defendant (Durning, collector of customs) held up a shipment from which some bottles disappeared, some were damaged and the rest were auctioned off to another merchant at a lower bid than Dioguardi made ($110 instead of $120).
  • Plaintiff is asserting that he should be paid the value of the imports that the collector took or gave away to the lower bidder.
  • District court dismissed original complaint, but plaintiff amended, which gave better notice to the defendant.

Issue

  1. Is there a pleading requirement for stating “facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action”?
  2. Is the Plaintiff entitled to relief?
  3. Is his complaint a grievance?

Holding

  1. No; There must be “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed Rules of Civ. Pro. Rule 8a. He has all the facts but it is an unclear claim of relief.
  2. Yes; a) Relief for conversion: The Defendant did away with some cases of tonics. b) Defendant violated 19 USCA S. 1491 & Treasury regulations promulgated thereunder.
  3. Yes; Plaintiff makes no mention of law.

Rule
A plaintiff must state “a claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”

Reasoning

  • A plaintiff is entitled to relief only if the substantive law would make the defendant liable on the facts alleged in the complaint.
  •  Even though plaintiff did not make a good claim, he should not be denied of reparations. The plaintiff does not know the law fully, but the facts justify his injustice.
  • The district court did not state why it concluded that the complaints showed no claim upon which relief could be granted.

Disposition
Reversed and Remanded

Notes
Fed Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 8a: (a) a claim for relief. A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain
(1) a short plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support;
(2) a short plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and
(3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.

Fed Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 12(b) How to Present Defenses
Every defense to a claim for relief in any pleading must be asserted in the responsive pleading if one is required. But a party may assert the following defenses by motion:
(1) Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction
(2) Lack of Personal Jurisdiction
(3) Improper venue
(6) Failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted

Prince’s Takeaway:
A plaintiff is entitled to relief only if the substantive law would make the defendant liable on the facts alleged in the complaint. If the alleged facts presents a violation of an substantive law, the plaintiff is entitled to relief.
PLAINTIFFS SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE THEIR DAY IN COURT, REGARDLESS IF THEY HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE LAW = DUE PROCESS
*However, that will soon change in Aschroft v. Iqbal–you can no longer claim a grievance complaint or cry “discrimination”. From Ashcroft and onwards, you must have a “well-pleaded” complaint in order for the court to hear it.

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