Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company v. Mottley

Louisville Nashville Railroad Company v. Mottley

Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149 (1908), was a United States Supreme Court decision that held that under the existing statutory scheme, federal question jurisdiction could not be predicated on a plaintiff's anticipation that the defendant would raise a federal statute as a defense. Instead, such jurisdiction can only arise from a complaint by the plaintiff that the defendant has directly violated some provision of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. This reading of the federal question jurisdiction statute is now known as the well-pleaded complaint rule. Excerpted from Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co. v. Mottley on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

211 U.S. 149

Louisville Nashville Railroad Company  v.  Mottley

 Argued: October 13, 1908. --- Decided: November 16, 1908

The appellees (husband and wife), being residents and citizens of Kentucky, brought this suit in equity in the circuit court of the United States for the western district of Kentucky against the appellant, a railroad company and a citizen of the same state. The object of the suit was to compel the specific performance of the following contract:

Louisville, Ky., Oct. 2d, 1871.

The Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, in consideration that E. L. Mottley and wife, Annie E. Mottley, have this day released company from all damages or claims for damages for injuries received by them on the 7th of September, 1871, in consequence of a collision of trains on the railroad of said company at Randolph's Station, Jefferson County, Kentucky, hereby agrees to issue free passes on said railroad and branches now existing or to exist, to said E. L. & Annie E. Mottley for the remainder of the present year, and thereafter to renew said passes annually during the lives of said Mottley and wife or either of them.

The bill alleged that in September, 1871, plaintiffs, while passengers upon the defendant railroad, were injured by the defendant's negligence, and released their respective claims for damages in consideration of the agreement for transportation during their lives, expressed in the contract. It is alleged that the contract was performed by the defendant up to January 1, 1907, when the defendant declined to renew the passes. The bill then alleges that the refusal to comply with the contract was based solely upon that part of the act of Congress of June 29, 1906 (34 Stat. at L. 584, chap. 3591, U.S.C.omp. Stat. Supp. 1907, p. 892), which forbids the giving of free passes or free transportation. The bill further alleges: First, that the act of Congress referred to does not prohibit the giving of passes under the circumstances of this case; and, second, that, if the law is to be construed as prohibiting such passes, it is in conflict with the 5th Amendment of the Constitution, because it deprives the plaintiffs of their property without due process of law. The defendant demurred to the bill. The judge of the circuit court overruled the demurrer, entered a decree for the relief prayed for, and the defendant appealed directly to this court.

Mr. Henry L. Stone for appellant.

Messrs. Lewis McQuown and Clarence U. McElroy for appellees.

Mr. L. A. Shaver for Interstate Commerce Commission as amicus curiae.

Mr. Justice Moody, after making the foregoing statement, 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).