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Zahn v. International Paper Co.

ELR Citation: 4 ELR 20100
Nos. No. 72-888, 414 U.S. 291/6 ERC 1120/(U.S., 12/17/1973) Aff'd

Relying on its earlier decision in Snyder v. Harris, the U.S. Supreme Court affirms a Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that lakeshore property owners with separate and distinct damage claims for water pollution must each satisfy the federal jurisdictional amount requirement in order to maintain a diversity class action under Rule23(b)(3). The Court interprets the "matter in controversy" provision of 28 U.S.C. §1332 to forbid maintenance of a class action since the unnamed plaintiffs can not show damages in the jurisdictional amount. These parties must be dismissed from the case, even though the four named plaintiffs can show the requisite damages and the district court has jurisdiction to consider their claims.

A dissent argues that the majority has misconstrued both the "matter in controversy" jurisdictional amount provision and the precedent of Snyder v. Harris. In Snyder, none of the plaintiffs met the amount requirement, while in this case, federal diversity jurisdiction has been established over the claims of the named plaintiffs. The dissent contends that under these circumstances both practical and policy considerations make proper an exercise by the district court of its ancillary jurisdiction to include the unnamed plaintiffs in the litigation, even though they do not meet the federal aggregation requirements, and to allow the case to proceed as a Rule 23(b)(3) class action.

For the Court of Appeals opinion, see 2 ELR 20616.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Peter Langrock
Langrock & Sperry
Middlebury, VT 05753

Counsel for Defendant
Taggart Whipple
Richard E. Nolan
William H. Levit Jr.
Nicholas R. Weiskopf
Davis, Polk & Wardwell
One Chase Manhattan Plaza
New York, NY 10005

Henry F. Black
George W. Ray Jr.
Black & Plante
Municipal Building
White River Junction, VT 05001

Counsel for Amicus Curiae City of New York
Norman Redlich
Stanley Buchsbaum
Antonin Tutter
Office of Corporation Counsel
Municipal Building
New York, NY 10007

Counsel for Amici Curiae National Council of Senior Citizens and
Consumer Federation of America
Bruce J. Terris
Helen Cohn Needham
1908 Sunderland Place, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Counsel for Amici Curiae Lloyd and Eloise Canfield
Seymour Graubard
Jack Weinberg
Graubard, Moskovitz, McGoldrick, Dannett & Horowitz
345 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10022