Burns (plaintiff) brought a personal injury claim against Anderson (defendant) after the parties were involved in a motor vehicle accident. Burns sued in federal court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, claiming $1,026 in lost wages and medical expenses and $60,000 for pain and suffering. Burns had suffered a broken thumb in the May 26 accident, and returned to work doing hard labor less than one month later. By the end of July, Burns had no pain at all. The minimum amount in controversy for federal diversity jurisdiction at the time was $10,000. The district court dismissed the claim for lack of jurisdiction, holding as a matter of law that the amount in controversy was less than $10,000. Burns appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.