4 S.E.2d 364 (Va. 1939), Toler v. Oakwood Smokeless Coal Corporation

Citation:4 S.E.2d 364, 173 Va. 425
Opinion Judge:Spratley
Attorney:S.H. & Geo. C. Sutherland, for the appellant.
Case Date:September 13, 1939
Court:Supreme Court of Virginia

Page 364

4 S.E.2d 364 (Va. 1939)

173 Va. 425




Supreme Court of Virginia

September 13, 1939

[173 Va. 427] S.H. & Geo. C. Sutherland, for the appellant.

Bandy & Bandy, for the appellee.



This is an appeal from a decision of the Industrial Commission of Virginia, which dismissed the claim of the appellant, Martha Toler, for compensation for the death of her alleged husband, Raymond Toler. Raymond Toler died on April 29, 1938, as a result of injuries arising out of an accident to him in the course of his employment by the Oakwood [173 Va. 428] Smokeless Coal Corporation, on the 14th day of April, 1938, in Buchanan county, Virginia.

The facts were not in dispute before the Commission. As stated by Commissioner Nickels, they are

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as follows:

'The record shows that claimant was married to J. M. Lawson in the year 1927, and that she lived with him for a period of five and one-half years. She separated from said Lawson and resided at various places thereafter. About four years after her separation from Lawson she married Raymond Toler, the deceased. She was married to him in Boone County, West Virginia, on March 27, 1937. Thereafter she and her second husband came to Virginia on April 14, 1937, where they had resided until the date of the foregoing fatal accident.

'The evidence of claimant shows that Raymond Toler, her last husband, had seen a newspaper article wherein it was related that her former husband, J. M. Lawson, had been killed in an automobile accident; that she had not instituted any divorce proceedings against her former husband, J. M. Lawson, and, so far as she knew, he had not instituted divorce suit against her; that the last marriage was solemnized in the belief that her former husband was dead. The record further shows this information to be incorrect, because witnesses were introduced who knew the said J. M. Lawson and who testified that he was still alive and a resident of the State of West Virginia.'

The sole question for our decision is whether the claim of Mrs. Toler to be the lawful widow of Raymond Toler, and as such entitled to compensation provided by the law of Virginia for the widow of a deceased employee, shall be determined under the laws of West Virginia, the place of the celebration of her second marriage; or under the laws of Virginia, the forum State, and the residence of herself and

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Toler at the time of the latter's accident and death.

The precise question here presented has never been decided by this court; that is, no case has here been decided touching the validity of a marriage in another state, between citizens of that state, where such marriage, though prohibited, [173 Va. 429] is made void only from the time it may be so declared by a decree of nullity, and the parties so married afterwards came to Virginia, where the marriage between them is by statute declared absolutely void, and there resided together as man and wife.

An examination of the numerous cases bearing upon the subject of the validity of foreign marriages, especially as regards the essentials of marriage and the capacity of parties, discloses an amazing and perplexing diversity of judicial determination. As interesting as it may be to review those cases, we cannot, within the scope of this opinion, undertake to enter into a discussion of the varying factors and circumstances involved in a consideration of them. A mere reading of the cases and the authorities therein cited will direct the exploring investigator into a wide field of conflict of laws and opinions. The question before us must be settled upon general principles, and governed by our own statutes.

The general rule throughout the civilized world is that the law of the place of its celebration governs as to the form and ceremonies incident to marriage. Thus arises the often cited rule that a...

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