MBE Strategies Blog Post Series: Welcome to our MBE tips and tricks blog post series! Today we will be covering a Civil Procedure MBE question and MBE Tip.
You will see 25 Civil Procedure MBE questions on the Multistate Bar Exam — and 5-7 of them will cover topics such as jurisdiction (which we go over today!)
We will be posting a Multistate Bar Exam question once every couple days along with an answer. Note that these are MBE questions that students commonly get wrong. If you can master these questions, it could increase your MBE score by that many points if you see any of these issues tested again (which, by the way, you will!). These posts of MBE tips and tricks will not only cover substantive law but also strategy. So each post will cover one highly-tested area of substantive law as well as an important MBE strategy.
As mentioned above, today, we will review a Civil Procedure MBE question that tests a common Civil Procedure MBE issue–jurisdiction! Do your best to answer this question (before even looking at the answer choices and before looking at the answer below!) Ask yourself: What is the subject? What is the legal issue? What is the rule and analysis? What is the conclusion? Try to answer these beginning questions before even reading the answer choices. Then, uncover the Civil Procedure MBE answer as well as read more about our MBE tip of the day.
Civil Procedure MBE Question
A man and his neighbor sued a landscaping company for negligence after the company used a toxic chemical when fertilizing the gardens of the man and his neighbor. The chemical damaged several exotic plants in the man’s garden as well as the neighbor’s garden. The man and his neighbor were from State A. The landscaping company was incorporated in State B and had its principal place of business in State C. The man and his neighbor properly joined as plaintiffs in a single lawsuit. The man sued the landscaping company for $60,000, and the neighbor sued the landscaping company for $40,000. One month after the lawsuit was filed, the neighbor moved to State C. The landscaping company moved to dismiss the suit on the basis that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the case.
How should the court rule on the motion?
(A) For the man and his neighbor, because the amount in controversy is satisfied.
(B) For the company, because the neighbor moved to State C.
(C) For the company, because the amount in controversy is not satisfied.
(D) For the company, only if it can show that the man and neighbor are unlikely to recover over $75,000.
Legal Rule and Analysis: (If you need to look at your outline to find the legal rule, feel free to use it when you have not yet memorized the subject. Using your outline will help you actively learn and memorize your outline!)
Look at the answer choices provided. Choose an answer choice that matches your conclusion. Review the other answer choices provided.
Answer to Civil Procedure MBE Question
Common Mistake: Students mix up the nuances of subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity.
Subject: Civil Procedure
Legal Issue: Does the court have subject matter jurisdiction over the case?
Legal Rule and Analysis: There are two primary types of cases over which the federal court has jurisdiction: federal question cases (not present here because the suit is for negligence) and diversity cases (if the parties are from different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000). The case at hand is not a federal case; rather, it is a state case for negligence.
Further, in order to have diversity jurisdiction, there needs to be complete diversity and the amount in controversy needs to exceed $75,000.
Remember, a person is domiciled where they reside and intend to say. A corporation is domiciled where its principal place of business is and where its articles are incorporated. You look at the time the case is filed to see if diversity exists (so it does not matter is a party moves after the lawsuit is filed). There appears to be diversity since the man and his neighbor both lived in State A at the time the lawsuit was filed and the corporation was incorporated in State B and had its principal place of business in State C. Thus, no plaintiff is from the same state as any defendant.
However, in this case, the court does not have diversity jurisdiction over either party because neither party meets the amount in controversy. (While one plaintiff may be able to add the dollar value of his or her claims against a defendant to reach the amount in controversy, two plaintiffs cannot). (Note: There is an exception if two plaintiffs are suing to enforce a single common title or right — i.e. two plaintiffs suing to enforce the sale of land that the both jointly own, for example, but this is a minor exception!)
Conclusion: The landscaping company should win because the amount in controversy is not satisfied.
Choose an answer choice that most closely matches your conclusion and explain why the others are incorrect:(C) is correct because it recognizes that the amount in controversy is not satisfied. (A) is not correct because two plaintiffs cannot add their claims together to meet the amount in controversy if there is no common unity of title or right. (B) is not correct because diversity only matters at the time of filing (not afterward). (D) is incorrect because the plaintiffs do not meet the amount in controversy regardless. Further, it states the incorrect test. The test is not whether the plaintiff is “likely” to recover over $75,000; rather, the amount in controversy is met unless the defendant can show there is a “legal certainty” that the plaintiff will not recover over $75,000. Note that there is no supplemental jurisdiction in this case because not even one plaintiff meets the amount in controversy.
MBE Tip – Bringing it Together: Jot out the fact pattern. Answer it slowly! See how many principles of law you can review with just one question. We counted several issues:
- An overview of federal jurisdiction
- An overview of diversity jurisdiction
- The fact that plaintiffs cannot add their claims together to meet diversity jurisdiction
- The minor exception to this rule that plaintiffs cannot generally add their claims together
- The “legal certainty” test
- Supplemental jurisdiction (and what it does not cover)
- Where a person is domiciled
- Where a corporation is domiciled
- The exact moment that diversity is determined
Now if you see any of those principles tested again – you will answer the question correctly! This is the advantage of answering questions slowly and methodically–you can extract a lot from each question that you answer!! If you have gotten out of the habit of answering them slowly and methodically, try it again this last week to see how much you learn from each question you answer!
Key Takeaways for the day:
Takeaway for the Law: There are two primary types of cases over which the federal court has jurisdiction: federal question cases and diversity cases (if the parties are from different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000). Plaintiffs cannot generally add their claims together to reach the amount in controversy.
MBE Tip – Bringing it Together: Jot out the fact pattern. Answer it slowly! See how many principles of law you can review with just one question.
Want to see Past MBE Tip of the Day posts?
If you would like to see “MBE tip of the day” posts from prior days, please check out all of our past MBE tip of the day archives here! We have several of them and we list them by subject!
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