254 U.S. 175 (1929), 41, Wells Fargo & Co. v. Taylor

Docket Nº:No. 41
Citation:254 U.S. 175, 41 S.Ct. 93, 65 L.Ed. 205
Party Name:Wells Fargo & Co. v. Taylor
Case Date:December 06, 1920
Court:United States Supreme Court

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254 U.S. 175 (1929)

41 S.Ct. 93, 65 L.Ed. 205

Wells Fargo & Co.



No. 41

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 6, 1920

Argued December 19, 1919




1. Where the district court sustains a bill in equity against a demurrer and, upon final hearing, renders a decree for the plaintiff, a reversal ordered by the circuit court of appeals purely because of an amendable deficiency of the bill, and unaccompanied by any direction that the bill be dismissed or implication forbidding its amendment, leaves the district court free to permit the amendment, and the fact that the circuit court of appeals, in denying a petition for rehearing, refused to direct the allowance of the amendment signifies merely that it saw no occasion to control the district court's discretion in the matter. P. 181.

2. The provision of the Judicial Code (§ 265, formerly Rev.Stats., 720) forbidding any court of the United States to grant an injunction to stay proceedings in any court of a state is intended to give effect to the principle of comity and to prevent unseemly interference with the orderly disposal of litigation in the state courts, but not to hamper the federal courts in the discharge of duties otherwise plainly cast upon them by the Constitution and by the laws of Congress. P. 182.

3. The inhibition does not forbid the federal courts to enjoin a party from collecting a judgment obtained in a state court where its enforcement would be contrary to recognized principles of equity and the standards of good conscience. P. 183. See headnote 6, infra.

4. An arrangement between a railroad company and an express company whereby, in consideration of stipulated payments, the former grants to the latter the exclusive privilege of conducting the express business over its line, and transports, by cars provided by it and attached to its passenger trains, the express matter and accompanying messengers of the latter, besides furnishing room in its stations for the express company's use, and under which the latter assumes all risk of damage to its property and express matter so transported and of injury to its agents and employees while engaged in its business on the trains or property of the railroad company, and agrees to indemnify that company against claims for damages suffered by

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such agents or employees while so engaged, does not create a partnership relation, but constitutes the business of the express company distinct from that of the railroad company, so that an employee of the express company, while employed as its messenger on an express car in course of transportation, cannot be treated as an employee of the railroad company for the purpose of applying the Employers' Liability Act. P. 186.

5. The Employers' Liability Act, applicable to "every common carrier by railroad," does not embrace an express company conducting its business under such an arrangement with a railroad company. P. 187.

6. An express company operating over a railroad under an agreement by which it assumed all risk of injury to its employees while engaged in its business on the trains of the railroad company and agreed to indemnify that company against such claims, employed a messenger who, as a condition to his employment, assented to this understanding and agreed on his part to assume all risk of injury incident to his employment, from whatever cause arising. The employee was injured by the negligence of the railroad company while in discharge of his duties to the express company, and recovered judgment against the railroad company in an action in a state court in which the express company was not a party and could not be heard. He was financially irresponsible. Held that his contract was valid, and bound him to the express company not to assert such a liability against either company, and that the express company was equitably entitled to enforce the obligation by a suit against him in the district court (diverse citizenship being present) in which collection of the judgment should be enjoined. P. 188.

249 F. 109 reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

VANDEVANTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Oscar G. Taylor, an express messenger of Wells Fargo & Co. a common carrier by express, received substantial

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personal injuries through the derailment of an express car in which he was working, and which was part of a passenger train moving over the railroad of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company in the State of Mississippi -- the derailment resulting from negligence on the part of the railroad company and its employees. To recover for these injuries, Taylor brought an action against the railroad company in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, Mississippi, and obtained a judgment for $4,000, which was affirmed by the supreme court of the state without an opinion. See St. Louis & S. F. Ry. Co. v. Taylor, 58 So. 485.

In his declaration in that case, Taylor explained and justified his presence on the train and in the express car by alleging that he was then in the employ of the express company as its messenger, and, in the course of that employment, was in charge of express matter which the railroad company was transporting for the express company, that this transportation was in pursuance of a contract between the two companies, and that, under the contract, the express car was furnished by the railroad company and he, as the express company's messenger, was permitted to accompany the express matter carried therein.

While the declaration said nothing more about the nature or terms of that contract, it is important here to have them in mind. The contract shows that it was intended to, and did, cover all express business on and over the railroad company's road, both within and without the State of Mississippi, for a specified period, including the day when Taylor was injured. It gave to the express company the exclusive privilege of conducting an express business on and over the railroad, and obligated the railroad company to refrain from conducting an express business. There were provisions whereby the railroad company agreed (a) to transport, by suitable cars, to be provided by it and attached to its passenger trains, all express matter of the express company and the messengers accompanying the

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same, (b) to light and warm the cars and equip them with necessary conveniences, and (c) to permit portions of its stationhouses to be used by the express company for the reception, safekeeping, and delivery of express matter. And there were other provisions whereby the express company agreed (a) to make stated payments -- usually a percentage of the gross earnings -- for the facilities furnished and service rendered by the railroad company, (b) to assume all risks, losses, and damages to its own property, express matter, and valuable packages transported under the contract, (c) to assume all risk and damage to its agents and employees while engaged in its business on the trains or property of the railroad company, and (d) to indemnify and hold harmless the railroad company in respect of all claims for damages suffered by such agents and employees while so engaged.

There was also a contract between Taylor and the express company, spoken of as a messenger's agreement, wherein, following a recital that he had full knowledge of the service required and the conditions on which the railroad company would permit messengers to accompany express matter on its trains, and that, with such knowledge, he was desirous of becoming a messenger of the express company, it was stipulated as a term or condition of his employment that neither the express company nor the railroad company should under any circumstances or in any case be liable for any injury which he might receive while on the railroad company's trains as such messenger, whether caused by negligence of the railroad company or otherwise, and that he would assume all and every risk incident to such employment, from whatever cause arising.

Promptly after Taylor sued the railroad company in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, and before the case was brought to trial, the express company presented to that court in that cause a petition wherein it set out the contracts just described and asked to be made a party defendant.

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To this, the railroad company assented, but Taylor evidently objected, and the petition was denied. The railroad company, by its answer and evidence, sought to avail itself of the stipulation in the messenger's agreement, in connection with those in the other contract, but the court ruled against it, and Taylor obtained the judgment before mentioned.

What has been recited will conduce to a right understanding of another suit, the decree in which we are now to review.

The suit is in equity, and was brought by the express company against Taylor in the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Mississippi. The federal jurisdiction rests on diversity of citizenship, the express company being a corporation and citizen of Colorado and Taylor a [41 S.Ct. 95] citizen of Mississippi residing in the Northern District. The bill, with a supplement and amendment, proceeds on the theory that, in suing the railroad company and obtaining a judgment against it, which, as between that company and the express company, must be paid by the latter as stipulated in their contract, Taylor not only violated the messenger's agreement, but perpetrated a legal fraud on the express company; that the judgment is therefore one which, in equity and good conscience, he has no right to enforce; that, if he be permitted to enforce it, the express company will be without any effective remedy in that he has no property which can be reached by legal process (a fact which is both alleged and...

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