Chicago Ry Co v. Schendel Same v. Elder

Decision Date12 April 1926
Docket NumberNos. 683,684,s. 683
Citation270 U.S. 611,70 L.Ed. 757,53 A. L. R. 1265,46 S.Ct. 420
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Edward S. Stringer, of St. Paul, Minn., M. L. Bell, of New York City, W. F. Dickinson and Daniel Taylor, both of Chicago, Ill., and Thomas D. O'Brien and Alexander E. Horn, both of St. Paul, Minn., for petitioner.

Messrs. Ernest A. Michel and Tom Davis, both of Minneapolis, Minn., for respondents Schendel and others.

Messrs. Ernest A. Michel and Tom Davis, both of Minneapolis, Minn., and Leach & Leach, of Owatonna, Minn., for respondent Elder.

Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases grow out of an accident on the line of the railway company in Iowa, in which Hope was killed and Elder was injured, under circumstances establishing the negligence of the railway company and its consequent liability for damages. The defense in each case was that the controlling issue had become res judicata. In the Hope Case, petitioner pleaded a final judgment, entered under the Iowa Workmen's Compensation Law, by an Iowa state court of record possessing general jurisdiction, and, in the Elder Case, a decision made by a deputy industrial commissioner appointed under the same law. In both cases, the full faith and credit clause of the federal Constitution was invoked. At the trial in the Minnesota district court, the judgment in the one case and the decision in the other, together with a copy of the Iowa Workmen's Compensation Law, all properly authenticated, were offered in evidence in support of the plea, but, upon objection, excluded. Verdicts against the railway company were rendered and judgments entered accordingly. Appeals to the state supreme court followed. The action of the Minnesota district court in refusing to give effect to the Iowa judgment and decision was assigned as error and duly challenged as denying them the full faith and credit enjoined by the federal Constitution; but the Minnesota Supreme Court, upon full consideration, sustained the trial court in that respect and affirmed both judgments. 204 N. W. 552, 557.

The Iowa Workmen's Compensation Law is elective in form. Hope and Elder were residents of Iowa and employees of the railway company, and it is not in dispute that they and the company had elected to be bound by its provisions. The statute will be found in Code of Iowa 1924, § 1361 et seq. It adopts a schedule of compensation, creates the office of industrial commissioner, and authorizes him to appoint a deputy, make rules and regulations not inconsistent with the act, summon witnesses, administer oaths, etc., and contains other provisions, not necessary to be stated, for its administration and enforcement. If the parties fail to reach an agreement in regard to the compensation, the commissioner, at the request of either party, is directed to form a committee of arbitration to consist of three persons, one of whom shall be the commissioner, the others to be named by the parties, respectively. The arbitrators are directed to hear the case and decide the matter. Their decision, together with a statement of the evidence, findings of fact, rulings of law, and other pertinent matters, must then be filed with the commissioner. At the end of five days after such filing, unless a review is sought in the meantime, the decision becomes enforceable. Upon the application of any party in interest, the commissioner may review the decision; and, if any party be aggrieved by reason of his order or decree thereon, such party may appeal to the state district court having jurisdiction, in the manner and upon the grounds set forth in the act. The judgment of that court is given the same effect as though rendered in a suit duly heard and determined therein; and an appeal from it lies to the Supreme Court of the state.

No. 683.

In the Hope Case, the action was brought in the Minnesota district court on February 21, 1923, under the federal Employers' Liability Law (Comp. St. §§ 8657-8665), for the sole benefit of the surviving widow. Thereafter, on March 2, 1923, the railway company instituted a proceeding before the Iowa industrial commissioner under the Iowa Workmen's Compensation Act. To this proceeding the decedent's widow was made a party, as the sole beneficiary under the act. The railway company asked for an arbitration. The widow answered, asserting that the Compensation Act did not apply because the company and the deceased were both engaged in interstate commerce at the time of the accident. Arbitrators were appointed, though the widow did not join in their appointment. The arbitrators found that deceased was engaged in intrastate commerce and that the case was governed by the Compensation Act, and awarded compensation to the widow. Thereupon, the widow filed an application in review with the commissioner That officer reviewed the facts, specifically found that the deceased was engaged in intrastate commerce, and approved the award. The widow then appealed to the district court of Lucas county, Iowa, and that court, on June 2, 1923, specifically held that the deceased was engaged in intrastate commerce and entered final judgment affirming the award. Thereafter, on March 4, 1924, the present action was heard in the Minnesota district court and verdict and judgment rendered for respondent.

The Minnesota Supreme Court held that the plea of res judicata was bad for two reasons: (1) That 'the substantive right given the employee or his representative by Comgress under express constitutional grant, with the courts to which he may go for its enforcement pointed out to him, is a superior substantive right; and that when he or his representative has chosen the forum to which to submit his cause, he cannot, against his objection and upon the initiative of his employer, be required to submit it in a summary proceeding commenced later under a Compensation Act'; and (2) that there was a lack of identity of parties, since under the Iowa statute the right of recovery is in the beneficiary while under the federal act the right is in the personal representative.

1. It is evident from the opinion, that the court formulated the first reason with some hesitation. It is elementary, of course, that, in any judicial proceeding, the arrangement of the parties on the record, so long as they are adverse, or the fact that the party against whom the estoppel is pleaded was an objecting party, is of no consequence. A judgment is as binding upon an unwilling defendant as it is upon a willing plaintiff. Nor is it material that the action or proceeding, in which the judgment, set up as an estoppel, is rendered, was brought after the commencement of the action or proceeding in which it is pleaded. Where both are in personam, the second action or proceeding 'does not tend to impair or defeat the jurisdiction of the court in which a prior action for the same cause is pending. Each court is free to proceed in its own way and in its own time, without reference to the proceedings in the other court. Whenever a judgment is rendered in one of the courts and pleaded in the other, the effect of that judgment is to be determined by the application of the principles of res judicata by the court in which the action is still pending in the orderly exercise of its jurisdiction, as it would determine any other question of fact or law arising in the progress of the case. The rule, therefore, has become generally established that where the action first brought is in personam and seeks only a personal judgment, another action for the same cause in another jurisdiction is not precluded.' Kline v. Burke Constr. Co., 43 S. Ct. 79, 81, 260 U. S. 226, 230, 67 L. Ed. 226, 24 A. L. R. 1077.

It is urged in behalf of respondent that the federal act is supreme and supersedes all state laws in respect of employers' liability in interstate commerce. That is quite true; but it does not advance the solution of the point in dispute, since it is equally true that, in respect of such liability arising in intrastate commerce, the state law is supreme. Judicial power to determine the question in a case brought under a state statute is in no way inferior or subordinate to the same power in a case brought under the federal act.

The Iowa proceeding was brought and determined upon the theory that Hope was engaged in intrastate commerce; the Minnesota action was brought and determined upon the opposite theory that he was engaged in interstate commerce. The point at issue was the same. That the Iowa court had jurisdiction to entertain the proceeding and decide the question under the state statute, cannot be doubted. Under the federal act, the Minnesota court had equal authority; but the Iowa judgment was first rendered. And, upon familiar principles, irrespective of which action or proceeding was first brought, it is the first final judgment rendered in one of the courts which becomes conclusive in the other as res judicata. Boatmen's Bank v. Fritzlen, 135 F. 650, 667, 68 C. C. A. 288; Merritt v. American Steel Barge Co., 79 F. 228, 234, 24 C. C. A. 530; Williams v. Southern Pac. Co., 202 P. 356, 54 Cal. App. 571, 575. And see Insurance Co. v. Harris, 97 U. S. 331, 336, 24 L. Ed. 959, where the rule as stated was recognized.

The Iowa court, under the Compensation Law, in the due exercise of its jurisdiction, having adjudicated the character of the commerce in which the deceased was engaged, that matter, whether rightly decided or not, must be taken as conclusively established, so long as the judgment remains unmodified. United States v. Moser, 45 S. Ct. 66, 266 U. S. 236, 241, 69 L. Ed. 262, and cases cited. And, putting aside for the moment the question in respect of identity of parties, the judgment upon the point was none the less conclusive as res judicata because it was rendered under the state Compensation Law, while the action in which it was pleaded arose under the...

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