239 U.S. 199 (1915), 66, Atlantic Coast Line Railroad v. Burnette

Docket Nº:No. 66
Citation:239 U.S. 199, 36 S.Ct. 75, 60 L.Ed. 226
Party Name:Atlantic Coast Line Railroad v. Burnette
Case Date:November 29, 1915
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 199

239 U.S. 199 (1915)

36 S.Ct. 75, 60 L.Ed. 226

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad

v.

Burnette

No. 66

United States Supreme Court

November 29, 1915

Argued November 9, 1915

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA

Syllabus

It would be a miscarriage of justice to recover upon a statute not governing the case in a suit which the statute itself declared commenced too late to be maintained.

A right may be waived or lost by failure to assert it at a proper time. Burnet v. Desmornes, 226 U.S. 145.

Even though not pleaded, if defendant insists on the point that an action based on the Employers' Liability Act of 1908 has been brought too late and the answer admits that fact, the action cannot be maintained.

Congress within its sphere is a paramount authority over the states, and courts cannot, where the will of Congress plainly appears, allow substantive rights to be impaired under the name of procedure.

163 N.C. 186 reversed.

The facts, which involve the validity of a judgment for personal injuries based on the Employers' Liability Act of 1908, are stated in the opinion.

HOLMES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiff (defendant in error) was a fireman employed by the defendant. On October 5, 1907, he was injured by its negligence while working upon a train running from South Carolina to North Carolina. He brought this

Page 200

action on January 7, 1910, and judgment was ordered for a certain sum by the supreme court of the state. 163 N.C. 186. The supreme court assumed that the case was governed by the act of April 22, 1908, c. 149, 35 Stat. 65. Two errors are assigned. First, in holding that statute applicable to the cause of action, and second, in allowing a recovery under it in an action begun more than two years after the cause of action accrued. Id., § 6. The case was not argued in this Court on behalf of the defendant in error, but we gather from the record in the opinion that, while at the trial, the railroad, upon issues not before us, insisted that the federal statute was not applicable, the contrary was admitted before the supreme [36 S.Ct. 76] court, so that, although the admission seems to have been made with the second question only in view, the first point would appear not to have been drawn to the attention of either court, and...

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