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decided: May 21, 1900.



Author: Shiras

[ 178 U.S. Page 265]

 MR. JUSTICE SHIRAS, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a suit by Donald Morrison, alleging himself to be a citizen of the State of Minnesota, against the North American

[ 178 U.S. Page 266]

     Transportation and Trading Company, a corporation of the State of Illinois, for damages arising out of a breach of a contract whereby the transportation company had agreed to carry the plaintiff and his baggage from Seattle in the State of Washington to Dawson City in the Northwest Territory, in the Dominion of Canada.

It is conceded that the defendant company failed, without sufficient excuse, to fulfill its engagement, and the question upon which the jurisdiction of the court below depended is as to the nature and amount of the damages to which the plaintiff is entitled. The allegations in the complaint in that respect were, first, the sum paid by the plaintiff as a fare being $200; second, the expenses caused by having to return to Seattle, amounting to $72.50; third, the wages which he could and would have earned at Seattle if he had not proceeded upon the attempted journey, being wages at the rate of three dollars per day during all the time intervening between August 3, 1897, and November 17, 1897, amounting to about $320; fourth, the loss of a certain portion of plaintiff's baggage, amounting to $29.25; and, fifth, the loss occasioned plaintiff by the defendant's failure to transport him to Dawson City, "where the plaintiff could have obtained employment and engaged in business which he was competent to perform and transact, at or about Dawson City, and thereby have secured wages and profits at the rate of fifteen dollars per day continuously from September 15, 1897, for the period of the year next ensuing;" "by reason whereof there is due and owing the plaintiff from the defendant by reason of the premises, for said expenditures, outlay and damages, the sum of two thousand three hundred and one dollars and seventy-five cents."

It was obvious, on the face of the plaintiff's complaint, that if he was not entitled to recover the money which he alleged "he could have earned and secured by obtaining employment and engaging in business at or about Dawson City," the amount necessary to give the Circuit Court jurisdiction was not involved.

While it has sometimes been said that it is the amount claimed by the plaintiff in his declaration that brings his case within the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court, that was in suits for unliquidated

[ 178 U.S. Page 267]

     damages, in which the amount which the plaintiff was entitled to recover was a question for the jury; an inspection of the declaration did not disclose and could not disclose but that the plaintiff was entitled to recover the amount claimed, and hence, even if the jury found a verdict in a sum less than the jurisdictional amount, the jurisdiction of the court would not be defeated. Barry v. Edmunds, 116 U.S. 550; Scott v. Donald, 165 U.S. 58, 89.

But where the plaintiff asserts, as his cause of action, a claim which he cannot be legally permitted to sustain by evidence, a mere ad damnum clause will not confer jurisdiction on the Circuit Court, but the court on motion or demurrer, or of its own motion, may dismiss the suit. And such, we think, was the present case.

We do not consider it necessary to enter upon a discussion of the rule that a person is not to be held responsible in damages for the remote consequences of every negligent act, but only for those which are proximate or natural, and shall content ourselves by stating our conclusion that, in the circumstances disclosed by the plaintiff's declaration and in the certificate of the trial judge, the defendant company, though liable in a court of competent jurisdiction for the other claims asserted, cannot be held for the amount of wages or profits which the plaintiff suggests he might have earned had he reached Dawson City.

In the District Judge's certificate it is stated that the plaintiff did not allege that he had ever lived in Dawson City before, or had any previous engagement or business there or any promise of employment; that it was not alleged what, if any, occupation the plaintiff had before his departure on the journey, nor what occupation was expected at the point of ...

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