Cerbone v. Conway

LOCATION: Harrison County Court

DOCKET NO.: 84-1947
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)

CITATION: 479 US 84 (1986)
ARGUED: Nov 05, 1986
DECIDED: Nov 17, 1986

George Russel Miller - on behalf of the Respondent
Michael F. Close - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Cerbone v. Conway

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 05, 1986 in Cerbone v. Conway

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments next in Cerbone against Conway.

Mr. Close, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Michael F. Close:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Good morning.

This is a dispute about a $400 check; actually, a $430 check.

Underlying it is a dispute about a car repair that was apparently not authorized, or at least allegedly not authorized.

It's been going on now for almost ten years.

It's been in seven or eight courts before it got to this Court.

Now, the plaintiff and respondent admits in the record that this case reached the Federal courts because it was not timely under State law.

They'd blown the State statute of limitations against the target defendant.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This is the kind of a case that gets the legal profession in ill repute, isn't it?

Michael F. Close:

Well, Justice Oakes' opinion below did take umbrage at I think some of my own actions in this case, and certainly my client's actions.

Yes, my client is also substantively appalled that we are still litigating a $400 check.

It's our contention, both literally and colloquially, that you can't make a Federal case out of it.

It just never belonged in Federal court.

It was something that should have been resolved in small claims court or the justice court.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Exactly, and it should have been settled long ago.

Michael F. Close:

Yes, Your Honor.

Harry A. Blackmun:

How can people of this type afford the litigation to come up here on it?

Michael F. Close:

Well, the problem with that... the answer to that is not in the record.

The dispute begins in April of 1977 when the respondent's car blew up on an interstate highway.

"Blew up" is their phrase.

It was taken under tow to Bano Buick, which is the co-petitioner here.

And although the parties disagree on what, they do agree that the car needed a totally new engine.

Now, the Conways' version of the facts... and we have to accept that for purpose of today's argument... is that they would go out and look in the local junkyards for a replacement engine, and that Bano Buick was not supposed to do anything until the Conways had found the engine that they wanted put back into the 1973 Opel, which was the faulty car.

Now, Mr. Conway, Jeff Conway, went out and found engines, looked... scoured the area.

And apparently, when he found the engine that he said should be put into the car, he called up Bano Buick and said, hey, I've got the engine.

Well, Bano Buick then said, oh, glad you called.

We're just about to start your car.

And we'd like you to come down and pick it up.