Finley v. United States

(Redirected from 490 U.S. 545)
Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

490 U.S. 545

Finley  v.  United States

No. 87-1973  Argued: Feb. 28, 1989. --- Decided: May 22, 1989


Petitioner's decedents were killed when their plane struck electric power lines on its approach to a city-run airfield in San Diego. She filed the present action against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), claiming that the Federal Aviation Administration had been negligent in its operation and maintenance of runway lights and in its performance of air traffic control functions. Petitioner subsequently moved to amend her complaint to add state tort-law claims against both the city and the utility company that maintained the power lines. The District Court granted the motion and asserted "pendent" jurisdiction under Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218, concluding that "judicial economy and efficiency" favored trying the actions together, and that the claims arose "from a common nucleus of operative facts." The Court of Appeals reversed on interlocutory appeal, categorically rejecting pendent-party jurisdiction under the FTCA.

Held: The text of the FTCA-which provides in pertinent part that the federal district courts shall have jurisdiction over "civil actions on claims against the United States"-defines jurisdiction in a manner that does not reach defendants other than the United States. This Court's decision in Aldinger v. Howard, 427 U.S. 1, 96 S.Ct. 2413, 49 L.Ed.2d 276, made explicit the nontransferability of Gibbs to the context of pendent-party jurisdiction. Aldinger, Zahn v. International Paper Co., 414 U.S. 291, 94 S.Ct. 505, 38 L.Ed.2d 511, and Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 98 S.Ct. 2396, 57 L.Ed.2d 274, establish that a grant of jurisdiction over claims involving particular parties does not confer jurisdiction over additional claims by or against different parties, even if consideration of the additional claims would promote "judicial economy and efficiency," and all of the claims "derive from a common nucleus of operative fact." Nor do the circumstances here suffice to establish "ancillary" jurisdiction. The unavailability of jurisdiction over the additional claims is unaltered by the exclusivity of federal jurisdiction under the FTCA, even though that may sometimes require separate suits in state and federal court. Finally, the 1948 revision of the Judicial Code, which changed the relevant language of the FTCA from "any claim against the United States" to its present form, does not suggest an affirmative grant of pendent-party jurisdiction, but is more naturally understood as a stylistic change reflecting the terminology of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 2. Pp. 547-556.


SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, O'CONNOR, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 556. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 558.

Joseph T. Cook, Irvine, Cal., for petitioner.

David L. Shapiro, for respondent.

Justice SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).