Burns v. Grand Rapids & I.R. Co.

Decision Date24 January 1888
Citation113 Ind. 169,15 N.E. 230
PartiesBurns v. Grand Rapids & I. R. Co.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court


Appeal from superior court, Allen county; R. W. McBride, Judge.

L. M. Ninde, for appellant. W. S. O'Rourke and John Morris, for appellee.

Mitchell, J.

On and prior to the twenty-fourth day of March, 1886, the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad Company was operating its line, which extends from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to the northern lakes, in the state of Michigan. The complaint charges that while so engaged the defendant company negligently and wrongfully caused the death of William Burns, the plaintiff's intestate, while the latter was engaged in the line of his duty in coupling cars at Carey station, in the state of Michigan, the intestate being at the time an employe of the company. This action is by the administrator to recover damages, which he alleges have accrued to the decedent's next of kin, whose names are set out in the complaint. The complaint embraces a statute of the state of Michigan, in which it is enacted that any person or corporation, by whose wrongful act, neglect, or default, the death of any person shall be caused, shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, provided the injury shall have occurred under such circumstances as that, if death had not ensued, the injured person would have been entitled to maintain an action. The action is to be brought in the name of the personal representative of the person whose death has been caused, and the amount recovered to be distributed to the persons, and in the proportion provided by law, for the distribution of personal property of persons dying intestate. The jury are authorized to give such damages as they shall deem just and fair, taking into account the pecuniary injury resulting from the death to the persons entitled. It may be remarked that this statute is not essentially dissimilar to that regulating the same subject in the state of Indiana, as found in section 284, Rev. St. 1881. The court below sustained a demurrerto the complaint, upon the ground that jurisdiction to enforce the right of action and liability, which it is alleged accrued in the state of Michigan, under its laws, belonged exclusively to the courts of that state. The propriety of this ruling is the only question involved in this appeal.

It is a settled rule of the common law that the death of a human being cannot be complained of as a cause of action in a civil court. In the absence of statutory enactments, actions arising ex delicto, for injury to the person, abate on the death of the person injured, and do not survive to the personal representatives, the maxim actio personalis moritur cum persona being of universal application. The states of Indiana and Michigan have each enacted, as have most of the other states, statutes like that the substance of which is above set out. The statutes, while they do not in terms revive the common-law right of action for personal injury, nor make it survive the death of the injured person, create a new right in favor and for the benefit of the next of kin or heirs of the person whose death has been wrongfully caused. Although the right thus created is purely of statutory origin, its nature and incidents, and the conditions upon which a recovery may be had, are in no essential respect different from that which relate to an ordinary civil action to recover damages for a civil injury. There is therefore, as we conceive, no propriety in the suggestion, sometimes made, that statutes such as that set out in the complaint are penal in character. The recovery is not a penalty inflicted by way of punishment for the wrong, but is merely compensatory of the damages sustained by the heirs or next of kin, who had, or are supposed to have had, a pecuniary interest in the life of the intestate. Mahew v. Burns, 103 Ind. 328-335, 2 N. E. Rep. 793. If the plaintiff were asserting a right to recover a penalty, a different rule would prevail. Carnahan v. Telegraph Co., 89 Ind. 526.

When the railway company wrongfully caused the death of William Burns in the state of Michigan, we have seen that a right of action, under the statutes of that state, accrued to his personal representatives, to recover civil damages for the benefit of those to whom his personal property became distributable. The statute of Michigan fixed the rights of the next of kin and the liability of the railroad company. It is a well-established principle that rights which have accrued under the laws of a foreign state, are treated as valid rights everywhere; and, by means of this principle, cognizance is taken of extraterritorial laws, and of facts extraterritorial, when those laws and facts have conferred rights or imposed obligations upon persons who are within the jurisdiction of the court. West. Pr. Int. Law, § 58. The application of this principle requires that the injury described must have given a right of action under the laws of the place where the default or neglect accrued. A civil right of action acquired under the laws of the state where the injury was inflicted, or a civil liability incurred in one state may be enforced in any other in which the party in fault may be found, according to the course of procedure in the latter state. Dennick v. Railroad Co., 103 U. S. 11;Leonard v. Navigation Co., 84 N. Y. 48;Knight v. Railway Co., 108 Pa. St. 250, 26 Amer. & Eng. Ry. Cas. 485; Railroad Co. v. Swint, 73 Ga. 651, 26 Amer. & Eng. Ry. Cas. 482; Railroad Co. v. Nix, 68 Ga. 572;Railroad Co. v. Doyle, 8 Amer. & Eng. Ry. Cas. 171; Herrick v. Railway Co., 31 Minn. 11, 16 N. W. Rep. 413;McLeod v. Railway Co., 58 Vt. 727, 28 Amer. & Eng. Ry. Cas. 644, 6 Atl. Rep. 648;Boyce v. Railway Co., 63 Iowa, 70, 23 Amer. & Eng. Ry. Cas. 172, 18 N. W. Rep. 673;Railroad Co. v. Sprayberry, 8 Baxt. 341;Railway Co. v. Lacy, 43 Ga. 461.

Actions for the recovery of damages for personal injuries are transitory in their nature, and arise out of the supposed violation of rights which in contemplation of law are not local, nor confined to the state where the right accrued. Such actions have always been regarded as transitory in character; and although the injury and the right of action may have accrued in a foreign state, it is now settled by an overwhelming weight of authority that the jurisdiction of courts to entertain and enforce the right is not dependent upon whether the right is of statutory or common-law origin, provided the enforcement of the right in no way infringes upon or contravenes the policy of the state in whose jurisdiction the remedy is sought. McLeod v. Railway Co., supra; Boyce v. Railway Co., supra. There are comparatively recent decisions, which proceed upon a supposed distinction between statutory rights in derogation of the common law and those generally recognized common-law rights. Some of these refuse to recognize or enforce rights which are wholly dependent upon foreign statutory law. Richardson v. Railroad Co., 98 Mass. 85;Anderson v. Railway Co., 37 Wis. 321;Bettys v. Milwaukee, Id. 323;Woodard v. Railroad Co., 10 Ohio St. 121;McCarthy v. Railroad Co., 18 Kan. 46;Taylor v. Pennsylvania Co., 78 Ky. 348. As is suggested in an elaborate and valuable note to the last edition of Story on the Conflict of Laws, (note a., p. 844,) most of the cases in which this distinction is attempted might well have been, and indeed some of them were, decided upon other grounds. But however that may be, the more recent decisions, and we believe the entire current of the later authorities, have entirely disregarded the distinction which was formerly supposed to exist between rights originating under a foreign statute and those of common-law origin. 3 Wood, Ry. Law, § 411; Story, Confl. Law, (8th Ed.) 844; and cases cited, supra.

The general proposition may be conceded that statutes have no extraterritorial force beyond the state in which they were enacted, but it is nevertheless true that civil rights acquired under a statute are...

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  • Ascher v. Edward Moyse & Co.
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    ... ... Matthews, 75 Mo. 961; ... Swann v. Swann, 21 F. Rep. 299; Burns v. R. R ... Co., 113 Ind. 169; Flagg v. Baldwin, 38 N.J.Eq ... 219, ... ...
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    ...141 Ind. 488, 40 N. E. 1061;Thornburg v. American, etc., Co., 141 Ind. 443, 40 N. E. 1062, 50 Am. St. Rep. 334;Burns v. Grand Rapids, etc., Co., 113 Ind. 169, 15 N. E. 230;Wabash R. Co. v. Cregan, 23 Ind. App. 1, 54 N. E. 767. Also that no action can be maintained for the death of a human b......
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    ... ... Ind.App. 217) under § 1392 Burns" 1908, Acts 1907 p. 237, ...           ... Affirmed ...    \xC2" ... 443, 50 Am ... St. 334, 40 N.E. 1062; Burns v. Grand Rapids, ... etc., R. Co. (1888), 113 Ind. 169, 15 N.E. 230; ... Wabash ... ...
  • Floyd v. Vicksburg Cooperage Co.
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    ... ... upon the law of the place where the injury occurred." ... Burns v. Grand Rapids & I. R. Co., 113 Ind. 169, ... 176, 15 N.E. 230, 233; ... ...
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1 books & journal articles
  • Choice of law and predictability of decisions in products liability cases.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 34 No. 5, October 2007
    • 1 Octubre 2007
    ...states."). (87.) See supra Part I.A for a detailed discussion of lex loci delicti. (88.) Burns v. Grand Rapids & Ind. R.R. Co., 15 N.E. 230, 233 (Ind. (89.) 515 N.E.2d 1071 (Ind. 1987). (90.) Id. at 1072. (91.) Id. at 1073. (92.) Id. ("The tort is said to have been committed in the stat......

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