380 U.S. 39 (1965), 116, Crider v. Zurich Insurance Co.

Docket Nº:No. 116
Citation:380 U.S. 39, 85 S.Ct. 769, 13 L.Ed.2d 641
Party Name:Crider v. Zurich Insurance Co.
Case Date:March 01, 1965
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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380 U.S. 39 (1965)

85 S.Ct. 769, 13 L.Ed.2d 641

Crider

v.

Zurich Insurance Co.

No. 116

United States Supreme Court

March 1, 1965

Argued January 19, 1965

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner, an Alabama resident, was injured in that State while working for a Georgia corporation, against which he then secured a default judgment in an Alabama court under the Georgia Workmen's Compensation Act. Petitioner then brought this diversity action on the judgment against respondent, his employer's insurer, in the District Court, which granted a motion to dismiss on the ground that the Alabama court lacked jurisdiction to award damages under the Georgia Act providing for a remedy which could be afforded exclusively by the Georgia compensation board. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The State where an employee resides and is injured may adopt such choice of remedy as it desires, and Alabama was free to adopt and enforce the remedy provided by Georgia without any requirement imposed by the Full Faith and Credit Clause that the special Georgia procedure be followed. Pp. 41-43.

324 F.2d 499 reversed.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, a resident of Alabama and employed there by Lawler Construction Co., Inc., a Georgia corporation, was injured. Both he and Lawler were under Georgia's Workmen's Compensation Act at the time. Petitioner sued in an Alabama court under the Georgia Act and obtained a judgment by default against Lawler. Respondent, the insurer of Lawler, was sued in the Federal District

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Court by petitioner on his Alabama judgment, federal jurisdiction being based on diversity of citizenship. The District Court granted respondent's motion to dismiss (224 F.Supp. 87), and the Court of Appeals affirmed. 324 F.2d 499. The case is here on a writ of certiorari. 377 U.S. 942.

The District Court and the Court of Appeals stood on Green v. J. A. Jones Const. Co., 161 F.2d 359, which held that a Mississippi state court had no jurisdiction to award damages under the Georgia Workmen's Compensation Act, and that the Federal District Court for Mississippi was under the same disability, Georgia decisions settling the point that the remedy provided by the Georgia Act is "an exclusive one which can be afforded only" by the Georgia Compensation Board. Ibid.

We assume that the lower courts were correct in stating what the Georgia law is. But the mere fact that petitioner, if he had sued in Georgia, would have had to follow that course does not necessarily [85 S.Ct. 770] mean that the Alabama state court was in error in taking jurisdiction of the cause.

The Alabama state court dealt with an injury occurring to an Alabama resident while working in Alabama. Under Bradford Electric Light Co. v. Clapper, 286 U.S. 145, a State could fix one exclusive remedy for personal injuries involving its residents wherever the accident happened and the Full Faith and Credit Clause (Art. IV, § 1) required the other States to refuse to enforce any inconsistent remedy. That case would have been on all fours with the present one had petitioner been a resident of Georgia, rather than Alabama. Alaska Packers Assn. v. Industrial Acc. Commission, 294 U.S. 532, and Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission, 306 U.S. 493, marks a break with the Clapper philosophy. Alaska Packers allowed the State of residence of the injured employee to supply a remedy different from the Compensation Act of the place of the injury, even though the employee had agreed to be

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bound by the latter remedy. Pacific Insurance held that a person injured while working in California could recover under California's Compensation Act even though the injured person was a Massachusetts resident, regularly employed there by a Massachusetts corporation, and even though the Massachusetts Compensation Act purported to give an exclusive remedy. In Carroll v. Lanza, 349 U.S. 408, Arkansas, the place where the injury occurred, was allowed to grant common law damages even though Missouri, the home State, had a Compensation Act that purported to be exclusive. As we stated in that case:

Missouri can make her Compensation Act exclusive, if she chooses, and enforce it as she pleases within her borders. Once that policy is extended into other States, different considerations come into play. Arkansas can adopt Missouri's policy if she likes. Or, as the Pacific Employers Insurance Co. case teaches, she may supplement it or displace it with another, insofar as remedies for acts occurring within her boundaries are concerned. Were it otherwise, the State where the injury occurred would be powerless to provide any remedies or safeguards to nonresident employees working within its borders. We do not think the Full Faith and Credit Clause demands that subserviency from the State of the injury.

Id., pp. 413-414.

The State where the employee lives and where he was injured has a large and considerable interest in the event. As we said in Carroll v. Lanza, supra, p. 413

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. . . .

The State where the employee lives has perhaps even a larger concern, for it is there that he is expected to return, and it is on his community that the impact of the injury is apt to be most keenly felt. Certainly,

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when the injury occurs in the home State of the employee, the interest of that State is at least commensurate with the interest of the State in which an injury occurs involving a nonresident, as in Carroll v. Lanza. If Arkansas had a sufficient interest there to override Missouri's exclusive remedy, Alabama may override Georgia's here.

The Alabama policy in that regard is reflected in the judgment rendered by the Alabama court on which this federal suit was instituted. That Alabama judgment adopted and enforced the remedy provided by Georgia -- a procedure we indicated [85 S.Ct. 771] in Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission, supra, p. 500, a State might follow. Here, as in Alaska Packers Ass'n v. Industrial Accident Commission, supra, p. 544, " . . . the compensation acts of either jurisdiction may, consistently with due process, be applied in either. . . ." We were...

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