Civil Procedure I, Pages 275–278

Hanna v. Plumer

Supreme Court of the United States, 1965

Facts:

Defendant was the estate of a driver deceased at the time of filing the federal suit based on diversity.

Procedural History:

District court and First Circuit ruled that the claim should be dismissed because the plaintiff failed to comply with the state method of serving process.

Issue:

In a federal case based on diversity jurisdiction, is service of process required in compliance with state law or Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 4(e)(2)(B)?

Rule:

Federal procedural rules are used over states'.

Reasoning:

Past cases have only said state rules apply when federal rules don't. When a federal rule applies, it should apply. Distinctions between substantive and procedural law have been made advertently.

Holding:

Federal service should be measured against Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 4(e)(2)(B). Reversed.

Concurring Opinion:

Harlan: Erie had more important purposes than just discouraging "forum shopping"—it is a cornerstone of modern federalism. No distinction should be made between substantive and procedural law. The effect the change had between the federal outcome and the state's outcome should be the sole judge. Such an effect would have been negligible here.

Takeaway:

Hesch:

If there is a direct and irreconcilable conflict, apply FRCP unless it

  1. goes beyond “prescribing general rules of practice and procedure,” or
  2. “abridges, enlarges, or modifies a substantive right.”
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