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SMITH V. MCKAY, 161 U. S. 355 (1896)

U.S. Supreme Court

Smith v. McKay, 161 U.S. 355 (1896)

Smith v. McKay

No. 83

Argued December 20, 1895

Decided March 2, 1896

161 U.S. 355


When, in a case appealed from a circuit court, the record discloses that the defendants below appealed upon the express ground that the court erred in taking jurisdiction of the bill and in not dismissing the bill for want of jurisdiction, and prayed that their appeal should be allowed, and the question of jurisdiction be certified to the Supreme Court, and that said appeal was allowed, and the certificate further states that there is sent a true copy of so much of the record as is necessary for the determination of the question of jurisdiction, and as part of the record so certified is the opinion of the court below, in accordance with which defendants' motion to dismiss the cause for want of jurisdiction was denied, it sufficiently shows that the appeal was granted solely upon the question of jurisdiction.

When the requisite citizenship of the parties appears, and the subject matter is such that the circuit court is competent to deal with it, the jurisdiction of that court attaches, and whether the court sustains the complainant's prayer for equitable relief or dismisses the bill with leave to bring an action at law, either is a valid exercise of jurisdiction; and if any error be committed in the exercise of such jurisdiction, it can only be remedied by an appeal to the circuit court of appeals.

In the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts, Gordon McKay, as trustee for the McKay Sewing Machine Association and a citizen of the State of Rhode Island, filed a bill of complaint against Frank W. Smith and others, citizens of the State of Massachusetts, doing business as copartners in the firm name of Smith, Stoughton & Payne. The bill was brought upon a lease between said parties, bearing date January 23, 1878, whereby the complainant had granted to the defendants, in consideration of rent or license fees, the right to use certain sewing machines and other patented devices belonging to the complainant. The bill alleged a failure by the defendants to comply with the terms of the lease, and prayed for a discovery, accounting, payment of rent, and for an injunction restraining the defendants from using the patented machines until they had fully paid the amount found to be due.

The defendants filed an answer responding to various allegations of the bill and averring that the complainant, so far as he had any just cause of action, had a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law. Subsequently the defendants filed a special motion to dismiss the bill for the alleged reason that the complainant had a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law. After argument, this motion was denied. The cause was heard upon the pleadings and proofs, and at the May term, 1889, an accounting was awarded, a master was appointed, and, on the coming in of his report on December 22, 1891, a final decree was rendered that the complainant should recover damages in excess of the sum of five thousand dollars and costs of suit. From this decree an appeal was taken and allowed to this Court, and error was assigned to the action of the circuit court in taking jurisdiction of the bill and in not dismissing the same for want of jurisdiction.

Page 161 U. S. 356

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