Chesapeake Ry Co v. Stapleton, No. 133

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtTAFT
Citation73 L.Ed. 861,49 S.Ct. 442,279 U.S. 587
Decision Date27 May 1929
Docket NumberNo. 133
PartiesCHESAPEAKE & O. RY. CO. v. STAPLETON. Re

279 U.S. 587
49 S.Ct. 442
73 L.Ed. 861
CHESAPEAKE & O. RY. CO.

v.

STAPLETON.

No. 133.
Reargued April 9, 1929.
Decided May 27, 1929.

Mr. LeWright Browning, of Ashland, Ky., for petitioner.

Mr. George B. Martin, of Catlettsburg, Ky., for respondent.

Page 588

Mr. Chief Justice TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

Plaintiff is a citizen of Kentucky, and at the time of the suit was between 15 and 16 years of age. Marion Stapleton was his father and guardian. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company is a railway corporation of Virginia, doing an interstate commerce business in Kentucky. The plaintiff and his father were employed by the defendant as section hands, and were engaged in maintaining the railroad and the roadbed for interstate commerce. The plaintiff was directed by his father, who was his foreman, to get water for his companions. In returning with the water, he passed between or under the cars of a train standing on a switch track. The train moved unexpectedly while he was under the cars; he was run over and sustained permanent injury. The evidence showed that the boy was large and well developed, and had been working as a section hand and water carrier for nine months previously.

The law of Kentucky in force at the time of the accident was section 331a9, Carroll's Kentucky Statutes 1922, as follows:

'Child under sixteen; where not to work.-No child under the age of sixteen years shall be employed, permitted or suffered (1) to sew or assist in sewing belts in any capacity whatever; (2) nor to adjust any belt to any machinery; * * * (6) nor to work upon any railroad whether steam, electric or hydraulic; (7) nor to operate or assist in operating any passenger or freight elevator. * * *'

Section 331a16 of the same statute provided:

'Whoever employs or suffers or permits a child under sixteen years of age to work, and any parent, guardian or any adult person under whose care or control a child under such age is, who suffers or permits such child to work, in violation of any of the provisions of this act shall be

Page 589

punished for the first offense by a fine of not less than fifteen dollars nor more than fifty dollars; for a second offense by a fine of not less than fifteen dollars and not more than one hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or by both such fine and imprisonment; for a third or any subsequent offense by a fine of not less than two hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not less than thirty days, or by both such fine and imprisonment. * * *'

Suit was brought under the Federal Employers' Liability Act of April 22, 1908, c. 149, 35 Stat. 65 (45 USCA §§ 51-59). The case was tried to a jury and resulted in a verdict of $17,500. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment. 223 Ky. 154, 3 S.W. (2d) 209. The case comes here on certiorari, and the error chiefly pressed is the giving of charge No. 3, as follows:

'The court instructs the jury that if they believe and find from the evidence that the defendant Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company employed the plaintiff to work for it as a section hand at a time when he was under 16 years of age, and if they further believe and find from the evidence that the plaintiff while working for it as a section hand in the course of said employment, was injured at a time when he was under the age of 16 years, then the law is for the plaintiff, and the jury will so find. Unless they so believe they will find for the defendant.'

The language of the Federal Employers' Liability Act shows unmistackably that the basis of recovery is negligence and that without such negligence no right of action is given under this act. New York Central R. R. v. Winfield, 244 U. S. 147, 150, 37 S. Ct. 546, 61 L. Ed. 1045, L. R. A. 1918C, 439, Ann. Cas. 1917D, 1139; Erie R. R. v. Winfield, 244 U. S. 170, 172, 37 S. Ct. 556, 61 L. Ed. 1057, Ann. Cas. 1918B, 662. The question squarely presented here is whether the employment by an interstate carrier in Kentucky in the business of interstate commerce of a worker under the age of 16 years is by reason of the state statute guilty of

Page 590

negligence justifying a recovery under the federal act for injuries received during such employment. Instruction No. 3 as given above dispenses with any burden on the part of the plaintiff to show that his injury was due to his age.

This court, in the case of Chicago, M. & St. P. R. Co. v. Coogan, 271 U. S. 472, 474, 46 S. Ct. 564, 565 (70 L. Ed. 1041), said:

'By the Federal Employers' Liability Act, Congress took possession of the field of employers' liability to employees in interstate transportation by rail, and all state laws upon that subject were superseded. Second Employers' Liability Cases, 223 U. S. 1, 55 (32 S. Ct. 169, 56 L. Ed. 327, 38 L. R. A. (N. S.) 44). Seaboard Air Line (Ry.) v. Horton, 233 U. S. 492, 501 (34 S. Ct. 635, 58 L. Ed. 1062, L. R. A. 1915C, 1, Ann. Cas. 1915B, 475). The rights and obligations of the petitioner depend upon that Act and applicable principles of common law as interpreted by the federal courts. The employer is liable for injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence specified in the Act; and proof of such negligence is essential to recovery. The kind or amount of evidence required to establish it is not subject to the control of the several states. This court will examine the record, and if it is found that as a matter of law, the evidence is not sufficient to sustain a finding that the carrier's negligence was a cause of the death, judgment against the carrier will be reversed.'

In St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern R. Co. v. Hesterly, 228 U. S. 702, 33 S. Ct. 703, 57 L. Ed. 1031, it was held that the federal act saves a right of action to relatives for pecuniary loss sustained by the death of the one wrongfully injured, but does not permit a recovery for pain and suffering of the decedent, although in suits under the state law such a recovery may be had. See also Michigan Central R. Co. v. Vreeland, 227 U. S. 59, 33 S. Ct. 192, 57 L. Ed. 417.

In Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Horton, 233 U. S. 492, 34 S. Ct. 635, 58 L. Ed. 1062, L. R. A. 1915C, 1, Ann. Cas. 1915B, 475, this court held that a state statute as to assumption of risk does not apply to a suit for an injury under the Federal

Page 591

Employers' Liability Act, but only the common law on that subject as interpreted by the federal courts.

In New York Central R. Co. v. Winfield, 244 U. S. 147 37 S. Ct. 546, 61 L. Ed. 1045, L. R. A. 1918C, 439, Ann. Cas. 1917D, 1139, Winfield was a section laborer in interstate commerce. He was tamping a cross-tie and a pebble rebounded and hit his eye. He applied for compensation under a Workmen's Compensation Act of the state. It was held that, as his injury was not due to negligence on part of the railroad and did occur in interstate commerce, the Federal Employers' Liability Act excluded recovery for it.

In North Carolina R. R. v. Zachary, 232 U. S. 248, 34 S. Ct. 305, 58 L. Ed. 591, the action was brought in a state court of North Carolina to recover damages for the negligent killing of a locomotive fireman of the Southern Railway Company, lessee of the defendant. Under the law of the state, the North Carolina Railroad, as lessor of the Southern Railway Company, was held...

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54 practice notes
  • Francis v. Terminal Railroad Assn., No. 39573.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 8 Abril 1946
    ...exclusively by the decisions of the federal courts, without regard to any state statutes or decisions. C. & O.R. Co. v. Stapleton, 279 U.S. 587, 73 L. Ed. 861. (9) These Missouri statutes are declaratory of the common law principle which as we have seen creates responsibility on the owner f......
  • Hardin v. Ill. Central Railroad Co., No. 32084.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 19 Abril 1934
    ...Coogan, 271 U.S. 472; Railroad Co. v. Wells, 275 U.S. 455; Railroad Co. v. Hughes, 278 U.S. 496; Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Stapleton, 279 U.S. 587; Peters v. Wabash Ry. Co., 42 S.W. (2d) 588; Norton v. Wheelock, 23 S.W. (2d) 146; Railroad Co. v. Davis, 279 U.S. 34. (b) Wholly unsubstanti......
  • Hasenjaeger v. Railroad Co., No. 21948.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 8 Noviembre 1932
    ...by their employees while engaged in interstate commerce and suspended state laws on that subject. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Stapleton, 279 U.S. 587, 49 Sup. Ct. Rep. 442; New Orleans & N.E.R. Co. et al. v. Harris, 247 U.S. 367, 38 Sup. Ct. Rep. 535; Martin v. Wabash Ry. Co. (Mo. Sup.), 3......
  • Mooney v. Terminal Railroad Association, No. 38122.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 3 Enero 1944
    ...241 U.S. 333, 36 S. Ct. 558, 60 L. Ed. 1030; Toledo, St. L. & W.R. Co. v. Allen, 276 U.S. 165, 72 L. Ed. 513; C. & O.R. Co. v. Stapleton, 279 U.S. 587, 73 L. Ed. 861. (16) There can be no recovery under the Federal Employers' Liability Act unless the evidence shows the proximate cause of th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
54 cases
  • Francis v. Terminal Railroad Assn., No. 39573.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 8 Abril 1946
    ...exclusively by the decisions of the federal courts, without regard to any state statutes or decisions. C. & O.R. Co. v. Stapleton, 279 U.S. 587, 73 L. Ed. 861. (9) These Missouri statutes are declaratory of the common law principle which as we have seen creates responsibility on the owner f......
  • Hardin v. Ill. Central Railroad Co., No. 32084.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 19 Abril 1934
    ...Coogan, 271 U.S. 472; Railroad Co. v. Wells, 275 U.S. 455; Railroad Co. v. Hughes, 278 U.S. 496; Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Stapleton, 279 U.S. 587; Peters v. Wabash Ry. Co., 42 S.W. (2d) 588; Norton v. Wheelock, 23 S.W. (2d) 146; Railroad Co. v. Davis, 279 U.S. 34. (b) Wholly unsubstanti......
  • Hasenjaeger v. Railroad Co., No. 21948.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 8 Noviembre 1932
    ...by their employees while engaged in interstate commerce and suspended state laws on that subject. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Stapleton, 279 U.S. 587, 49 Sup. Ct. Rep. 442; New Orleans & N.E.R. Co. et al. v. Harris, 247 U.S. 367, 38 Sup. Ct. Rep. 535; Martin v. Wabash Ry. Co. (Mo. Sup.), 3......
  • Mooney v. Terminal Railroad Association, No. 38122.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 3 Enero 1944
    ...241 U.S. 333, 36 S. Ct. 558, 60 L. Ed. 1030; Toledo, St. L. & W.R. Co. v. Allen, 276 U.S. 165, 72 L. Ed. 513; C. & O.R. Co. v. Stapleton, 279 U.S. 587, 73 L. Ed. 861. (16) There can be no recovery under the Federal Employers' Liability Act unless the evidence shows the proximate cause of th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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