268 U.S. 288 (1925), 322, North Carolina Railroad Company v. Story

Docket NºNo. 322
Citation268 U.S. 288, 45 S.Ct. 531, 69 L.Ed. 959
Party NameNorth Carolina Railroad Company v. Story
Case DateMay 25, 1925
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 288

268 U.S. 288 (1925)

45 S.Ct. 531, 69 L.Ed. 959

North Carolina Railroad Company

v.

Story

No. 322

United States Supreme Court

May 25, 1925

Argued April 14, 1925

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA

Syllabus

1. A judgment of a state supreme court affirming the refusal of a lower court to continue a temporary restraining order and to grant a permanent injunction on the petition and answer, and leaving nothing for the lower court to do but dismiss the petition, held a final judgment and reviewable by certiorari under Jud.Code § 237, as amended September 6, 1916. P. 291.

2. An appellate court, upon an appeal from a temporary or interlocutory order or decree, has power under general equity practice to examine the merits, if sufficiently shown by the pleadings and record, and, upon deciding them for the defendant, to dismiss the bill. Id.

3. A judgment not appealed from, however erroneous, is res judicata. P. 292.

4. Section 206(g) of the Transportation Act of 1920, providing:

No execution or process . . . shall be levied upon the property of any carrier where the cause of action on account of which the judgment was obtained grew out of the possession, use, control, or operation of any railroad or system of transportation by the President under Federal control,

does not prevent judgments in the cases specified, but protects the carrier's property from execution under them. Id.

5. A decision by a state supreme court that a judgment recovered against a carrier for personal injuries suffered while its railroad was under federal control conclusively established the right to recover a second judgment in an action on the first is not a decision that the first judgment established plaintiff's right to levy execution on the carrier's property notwithstanding § 206(g) of the Transportation Act. P. 293.

6. The reasoning and opinion of a court are not res judicata unless the subject matter be definitely disposed by the decree. P. 294.

187 N.C. 184 reversed.

Page 289

Certiorari to a decree of the Supreme Court of North Carolina affirming a decree which refused relief by injunction against the levy upon the railroad's property of an execution to satisfy a judgment based on another judgment, which last had been recovered in an action against the railroad for personal injuries. See also 184 N.C. 442.

TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

The questions in this case are two. One is of our jurisdiction to issue the writ of certiorari to review a judgment of the Supreme [45 S.Ct. 532] Court of North Carolina, and turns on its finality. The second is whether a judgment of that court against the North Carolina Railroad Company for injuries caused by the operation of the road by the United States will bar a suit by the company to enjoin the execution of such judgment against its property under § 206(g) of the Transportation Act of 1920 (c. 91, 41 Stat. 456, 462). The relevant part of the section reads as follows:

No execution or process . . . shall be levied upon the property of any carrier where the cause of action on account of which the judgment was obtained grew out of the possession, use, control, or operation of any railroad or system of transportation by the President under federal control.

Maggie Barber was killed in North Carolina by a collision between a locomotive of the Southern Railway

Page 290

Company and an automobile in which she was riding. It was on the line of the North Carolina Railroad Company, then under a long lease to the Southern Railway Company. King, the administrator of the deceased, sued the North Carolina Company in the Superior Court of Guilford County charging negligence by defendant's lessee. The defendant, by answer, denied that the death was caused by the negligence of its lessee or its employees, because the railroad was then being operated by the Director General of Railroads. The jury returned a verdict for $2,500, and judgment was entered. An appeal was attempted, but was not perfected, due, it is said, to the illness of counsel. Without seeking execution, the administrator instituted a second suit, based on the first judgment, averring that it was unpaid. The company, by answer, set up § 206(g), above quoted, as a defense, and averred that the second suit was brought to evade the section. The plaintiff demurred on the ground that the first judgment had become res judicata. The court rendered judgment with interest and further costs. The company appealed, and the judgment was affirmed. 184 N.C. 442. The company opposed execution in the lower court, and excepted to the order directing it to Story, the sheriff of Alamance County, to be levied upon certain real estate of the company in that county.

The company then brought the present action based on § 206(g) in the Superior Court of Guilford County against Story and the administrator, seeking to enjoin permanently the execution. The defendants, answering, admitted the execution, but pleaded the second judgment as res judicata. The company secured a temporary restraining order and a rule on the defendants to show cause why the temporary order should not be continued and made permanent. On...

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