349 U.S. 408 (1955), 375, Carroll v. Lanza

Docket Nº:No. 375
Citation:349 U.S. 408, 75 S.Ct. 804, 99 L.Ed. 1183
Party Name:Carroll v. Lanza
Case Date:June 06, 1955
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 408

349 U.S. 408 (1955)

75 S.Ct. 804, 99 L.Ed. 1183

Carroll

v.

Lanza

No. 375

United States Supreme Court

June 6, 1955

Argued March 31, 1955

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

An employee of a subcontractor doing work for a general contractor was injured as a result of the latter's negligence. The employee and the subcontractor were residents of Missouri and the contract of employment was made in Missouri, but the work was done and the injury occurred in Arkansas. Unaware that he had a remedy under Arkansas law, the employee automatically received 34 weekly payments hr the injury under the Missouri Compensation Act, which provides exclusive remedies for injuries received inside or outside the State under employment contracts made in Missouri, even as against the general contractor, but there was no final award under that Act. The Arkansas Workmen's Compensation Act provides an exclusive remedy of the employee against his employer, but not against the general contractor. The employee sued the general contractor in Arkansas and obtained a judgment for common law damages.

Held: the Arkansas judgment did not deny full faith and credit to the Missouri law, and the judgment is sustained. Pp. 409-414.

(a) Magnolia Petroleum Co. v. Hunt, 320 U.S. 430, distinguished. Pp. 410-411.

(b) The Full Faith and Credit Clause does not make Missouri's Workmen's Compensation Statute a bar to Arkansas' common law remedy. Pp. 411-414.

(c) In personal injury cases, the state where the injury occurs is not required by the Full Faith and Credit Clause to allow only that remedy which is marked as the exclusive one by the state where the contract of employment was made. Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v. Commission, 306 U.S. 493. Pp. 412-413.

(d) Hughes v. Fetter, 341 U.S. 609, distinguished. P. 413.

216 F.2d 808 reversed.

Page 409

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Carroll, the petitioner, was an employee of Hogan, an intervenor, who, in turn, was a subcontractor doing work for the respondent Lanza, the general contractor. Carroll and Hogan were residents of Missouri, and Carroll's employment contract with Hogan was made in Missouri. The work, however, was done in Arkansas, and it was there that the injury occurred.

Carroll, not aware that he had remedies under the Arkansas law, received 34 weekly payments for the injury under the Missouri Compensation Act. The Missouri Act is applicable to injuries received inside or outside the State where the employment contract, as here, is made in the State. Mo.Rev.Stat.1949, § 287.110. The Missouri Act also provides that every employer and employee shall be "conclusively presumed to have elected to accept" its provisions unless, "prior to the accident," he shall have filed with the compensation commission a written notice that he "elects" to reject the compensation provision. Id., § 287.060. No such notice, however, was filed in this case. Moreover, the Missouri Act provides that the rights and remedies granted by it "shall exclude all other rights and remedies . . . at common law or otherwise," on account of the injury or death.1 Id., § 287.120.

Page 410

Arkansas also has provisions for workmen's compensation. Ark.Stat.1947, § 81-1301 et seq. It provides the exclusive remedy of the employee against the employer (id., § 81-1304) but not against a third party. Id., § 81-1340. And the court below, on review of Arkansas authorities, concluded that a general contractor, such as Lanza, the respondent, was a third party within the meaning of the Arkansas Act. And see Baldwin Co. v. Maner, 273 S.W.2d 28.

While Carroll was receiving weekly payments under the Missouri Act, he decided to sue Lanza for common law damages in the Arkansas courts. Lanza had the case removed to the Federal [75 S.Ct. 806] District Court, where judgment was rendered for Carroll.2 116 F.Supp. 491. The Court of Appeals, while agreeing with the District Court that the judgment was sustainable as a matter of Arkansas law, reversed on the ground that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution3 (Art. IV, § 1) barred recovery. 216 F.2d 808. The case is here by petition for certiorari, which we granted, 348 U.S. 870, because of doubts as to the correctness of the decision raised by Pacific Employers Insurance Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission, 306 U.S. 493.

The Court of Appeals thought Magnolia Petroleum Co. v. Hunt, 320 U.S. 430, to be controlling. There, the employee having received a final award for compensation

Page 411

in the forum of the injury returned to his home State and sued to recover under its Compensation Act. We held that the latter suit was precluded by the Full Faith and Credit Clause. But here there was no final award under the Missouri Act. Under that Act, the statutory payments apparently start automatically on receipt of notice of the injury. Mo.Rev.Stat.1949, §§ 287.380, 287.400. While provision is made for an adjudication of disputes between an employee and his employer (id., §§ 287.400, 287.450), no adjudication was sought or obtained here.

Nor do we have a case where an employee, knowing of two remedies which purport to be mutually exclusive, chooses one as against the other, and therefore is precluded a second choice by the law of the forum. Rather, we have the naked question whether the Full Faith and Credit Clause makes Missouri's statute a bar to Arkansas' common law remedy.

A statute is a "public act" within the meaning of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. See Bradford Electric Light Co. v. Clapper, 286 U.S. 145, 154-155, and cases cited; Alaska Packers Assn, v. Industrial Accident Commission, 294 U.S. 532. It was indeed held in the Clapper case that a Vermont Compensation Act, which purported to give an exclusive remedy, barred a common law action on the same claim in the New Hampshire courts by a Vermont employee against a Vermont employer, even though the injury occurred in New Hampshire. The Clapper case allowed a State to fix one exclusive remedy for personal injuries involving its residents, and required the other States to refuse to enforce any inconsistent remedy. Thus, as respects persons residing or businesses located in a State, a remedy was provided employees that was "both expeditious and independent of proof of fault," and a liability was imposed on employers that was "limited and determinate." 286 U.S. at 159.

Page 412

Pacific Employers Insurance Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission, 306 U.S. 493, departed, however, from the Clapper decision. There, a resident of Massachusetts regularly employed in Massachusetts by a Massachusetts corporation was injured while doing temporary duty in California. The Massachusetts Compensation Act purported to give an exclusive remedy, even for injuries incurred beyond its borders. But California also had a Compensation Act which undertook to [75 S.Ct. 807] fix liability on employers, irrespective of any contract, rule, or regulation, a provision which the California courts strictly enforced. The Court therefore held that the exclusive nature of the Massachusetts Act was "obnoxious" to the policy of California. The Court proceeded on the premise, repeated over and again in the cases, that 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 statute of another State reflecting a conflicting and opposed policy. Id. at 502.

The Pacific Employers Insurance Co. case allowed the Compensation Act of the place of the injury to override the Compensation Act of the home State. Here, it is a common law action that is asserted against the exclusiveness of the remedy of the home State, and that is seized on as marking a difference. That is not, in our judgment, a material difference. Whatever deprives the remedy of the home State of its exclusive character qualifies or contravenes the policy of that State and denies it full faith and credit, if full faith and credit is due. But the Pacific Employers Insurance Co. case teaches that, in these personal injury cases, the State where the injury occurs need not be a vassal to the home State and allow only that remedy which the home State has marked as the exclusive one. The State of the forum also has interests to serve and to protect. Here, Arkansas has opened its courts to negligence suits against prime contractors,

Page 413

refusing to make relief by way of workmen's compensation the exclusive remedy. Baldwin Co. v. Maner, supra. Her interests are large and considerable, and are to be weighed not only in the light of the facts of this case, but by the kind of situation presented. For we write not only for this case and this day alone, but for this type of case. The State where the tort occurs certainly has a concern in the problems following in the wake of the injury. The problems of medical care and of possible dependents are among these, as Pacific Employers Insurance Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission, supra, emphasizes. Id. at 501. A State that legislates concerning them is exercising traditional powers of sovereignty. Cf. Watson v. Employers Liability Assur. Corp., 348 U.S. 66, 73. Arkansas therefore has a legitimate interest in opening her courts to suits of this nature even though, in this case, Carroll's injury may have cast no burden on her or on her institutions.

This is not a case, like Hughes v. Fetter, 341 U.S. 609, where the State of the forum seeks to exclude from its courts actions arising under a foreign statute. In that case, we held that Wisconsin could not refuse to entertain a wrongful death action under an Illinois statute for an injury occurring in Illinois, since we found...

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