306 U.S. 493 (1939), 158, Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission

Docket Nº:No. 158
Citation:306 U.S. 493, 59 S.Ct. 629, 83 L.Ed. 940
Party Name:Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission
Case Date:March 27, 1939
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 493

306 U.S. 493 (1939)

59 S.Ct. 629, 83 L.Ed. 940

Pacific Employers Ins. Co.


Industrial Accident Commission

No. 158

United States Supreme Court

March 27, 1939

Argued December 12, 1938



1. A State is not bound, apart from the compulsion of the full faith and credit clause, to enforce the laws of another State, nor, by its own statute, may it determine the choice of law to be applied in the other. P. 500.

2. An employee of a Massachusetts corporation, resident in Massachusetts and regularly employed in that State under a contract of employment entered into there, was injured in the course of his employment while temporarily in California. The Massachusetts workmen's compensation statute purported to give an exclusive

Page 494

remedy, even though the injury was suffered outside of the State. Held, the courts of California were not bound by the full faith and credit clause of the Federal Constitution to apply, contrary to the policy of their State, the Massachusetts statute, or to recognize it as a defense to a claim of the employee under the workmen's compensation statute of California, which, because the injury was suffered in the course of employment there, also purported to be applicable and to give an exclusive remedy. Bradford Electric Light Co. v. Clapper, 286 U.S. 145, distinguished. P. 501.

That the application of the Massachusetts statute in this case would be obnoxious to the policy of California sufficiently appears: not only does the California statute conflict with the Massachusetts statute in respect of its application to employees injured in California, but it also expressly provides that "No contract, rule or regulation shall exempt the employer from liability for the compensation fixed by this Act," and further, the Supreme Court of California, in its opinion in this case, has declared it to be the policy of the State, as expressed in its Constitution and compensation Act, to apply its own provisions for compensation to the exclusion of all others, and holds that

It would be obnoxious to that policy to deny persons who have been injured in this State the right to apply for compensation when to do so might require physicians and hospitals to go to another State to collect charges for medical care and treatment given to such persons.

3. The nature of the federal union of States, to which are reserved some of the attributes of sovereignty, precludes resort to the full faith and credit clause as a means for compelling a State to substitute the statutes of other States for its own statutes dealing with a subject matter concerning which it is competent to legislate. P. 501.

4. The full faith and credit clause does not require a State to substitute for its own statute, applicable to persons and events within it, the conflicting statute of another State, even though that statute is of controlling force in the courts of the its enactment with respect to the same persons and events -- at least in the absence of action by Congress prescribing the extra-state effect to be given state statutes. P. 502.

5. This Court must determine for itself how far the full faith and credit clause compels the qualification or denial of rights asserted under the laws of one State -- that of the forum -- by the statute of another State. P. 502.

10 Cal.2d 567, 75 P.2d 1058, affirmed.

Page 495

Certiorari, 305 U.S. 563, to review the affirmance of a judgment denying a petition of the insurer of an employer to set aside an award of compensation made to an employee by the state commission.

Page 497

STONE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question is whether the full faith and credit which the Constitution requires to be given to a Massachusetts workmen's compensation statute precludes California from applying its own workmen's compensation act in the case of an injury suffered by a Massachusetts employee of a Massachusetts [59 S.Ct. 631] employer while in California in the course of his employment.

Petitioner, an insurance carrier, under the California Workmen's Compensation, Insurance, and Safety Act, for the Pacific Coast branch of the employer, Dewey & Almy Chemical Company, a Massachusetts corporation, filed its petition in the California District Court of Appeal to set aside an award of compensation to an employee by the California Industrial Accident Commission. The grounds of the petition were, among others, that the employee, because he was regularly employed at the head office of the corporation in Massachusetts and was temporarily in California on the business of the employer when injured there, was subject to the workmen's compensation law of Massachusetts, and that the California Commission, in applying the California Act and in refusing to recognize the Massachusetts statute as a defense, had denied to the latter the full faith and credit to which it was entitled under Article 4, § 1 of the Constitution. The order of the District Court of Appeal denying the petition was affirmed by the Supreme Court of California. 10 Cal.2d 567, 75 P.2d 1058. We granted certiorari October 10, 1938, the question presented being of public importance. 305 U.S. 563.

The injured employee, a resident of Massachusetts, was regularly employed there under written contract in the laboratories of the Dewey & Almy Chemical Company as a chemical engineer and research chemist. In

Page 498

September, 1935, in the usual course of his employment, he was sent by his employer to its branch factory in California to act temporarily as technical adviser in the effort to improve the quality of one of the employer's products manufactured there. Upon completion of the assignment, he expected to return to the employer's Massachusetts place of business, and, while in California, he remained subject to the general direction and control of the employer's Massachusetts office, from which his compensation was paid.

He instituted the present proceeding before the California Commission for the award of compensation under the California Act for injuries received in the course of his employment in that state, naming petitioner as insurance carrier under that Act; the Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company, as insurer under the Massachusetts Act, was made a party. The California Commission directed petitioner to pay the compensation prescribed by the California Act, including the amounts of lien claims filed in the proceeding for medical, hospital, and nursing services and certain further amounts necessary for such services in the future.

By the applicable Massachusetts statute, §§ 24, 26, c. 152, Mass.Gen.Laws (Ter.Ed.1932), an employee of a person insured under the Act, as was the employer in this case, is deemed to waive his "right of action at common law or under the law of any...

To continue reading