Crane v. Leonard, 39.

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Writing for the CourtFELLOWS
Citation183 N.W. 204,214 Mich. 218
Docket NumberNo. 39.,39.
Decision Date06 June 1921

214 Mich. 218
183 N.W. 204


No. 39.

Supreme Court of Michigan.

June 6, 1921.

Certiorari to Industrial Accident Board.

Proceeding under the Workmen's Compensation Act by Fidelia Crane against Leonard, Crossette & Riley, employers, and the Southern Surety Company, insurer, for compensation for the death of plaintiff's husband. The Industrial Accident Board awarded compensation and the insurer and employer bring certiorari. Award affirmed.


[183 N.W. 204]

Clark C. Coulter, of Detroit, for appellants.

Griswold & Cook, of Greenville, for appellee.


Plaintiff's husband, George M. Crane, was in the employ of defendant Leonard, Crossette & Riley, an Ohio corporation authorized to do business in this state. It was engaged in buying and shipping produce, and operated at about 40 points in Michigan, among the points being Greenville, where Mr. Crane was employed. It had elected to come under the Workmen's Compensation Act (Comp. Laws 1915, c. 101), and defendant Southern Surety Company carried the risk. On December 11, 1919, the company shipped out three cars of potatoes, one to Chicago and the others to St. Louis. It was the custom of the company at that time of year to have an employé accompany the shipment for the purpose of keeping up a fire in the cars to prevent the freezing of the potatoes. Mr. Crane was employed for this purpose. The car arrived in Chicago the following day. In the evening of December 13th, Mr. Crane was found unconscious in one of the cars with a badly crushed skull. He was hurried to a hospital, but died soon after. The evidence is convincing that he must have received his injury after the cars arrived in Chicago. The board awarded compensation upon the theory that the act applied whether the death occurred within or without the state.

We, therefore, have submitted to us for the first time the question, and it is the only question in the case, of whether the employer who has elected to become subject to the Workmen's Compensation Act is liable, where the employé, who has also elected to become subject to the act, received his injuries outside the state while in the course of the employment. The case has been ably briefed and the labors of the court materially lightened by the research of counsel.

[183 N.W. 205]

The contention of defendants' counsel that the act does not apply where the accident occurs outside the state finds support in the English cases. See Hicks v. Maxton, 1 B. W. C. C. 150; Tomalin v. S. Pearson & Son, Ltd., 2 B. W. C. C. 1; Schwartz v. Indiarubber, etc., Co., 5 B. W. C. C. 390. These cases unequivocally hold that no liability exists where the accident occurs outside the British Empire.

Undoubtedly the earliest case in this country is Gould's Case, 215 Mass. 480, 102 N. E. 693, Ann. Cas. 1914D, 372. This is a case of first impression so far as the rule in this country is concerned. In it the Massachusetts court followed the English holdings, and found insuperable difficulties in holding otherwise. We shall not attempt to distinguish this case from the holdings in other states where the same question has arisen, nor is there such a difference between the Massachusetts Act and our own as to justify us in saying that it is not applicable. If we accept it as controlling authority, it would necessarily follow that defendants' contention must be sustained. That it has not been followed in many states, and that its doctrine has met much adverse criticism, will be demonstrated by an examination of the authorities to which we shall presently refer. Mr. Bradbury followed it in the first edition of his work (see Bradbury on Workmen's Compensation, p. 44, 1st Ed.), but when the second edition was prepared he had modified his views (see 1 Bradbury on Workmen's Compensation, pp. 50, 51, 2d Ed.), and in the third edition (see Bradbury on Workmen's Compensation, p. 92, 3d Ed.), he said:

‘Therefore, now, as in the second edition of this work, partially receding from the position taken in the first edition of this work, although that position has been sustained by eminent authority, it is believed that the doctrine which must be established finally will be, in effect, that the law of the place where a contract of employment is made will govern the rights and liabilities of employés and employers to claim and to pay compensation.’

That Mr. Bradbury was convinced that the weight of authority was against the Massachusetts holding, and that it should not be followed, is evidenced by a note prepared by him to the case of Spratt v. Sweeney & Gray Co., 168 App. Div. 403,153 N. Y. Supp. 505, found in 9 N. C. C. A. 918. After citing the Gould Case and early holdings of our board and the Wisconsin Commission, he said:

‘Upon more mature deliberation, however, other courts came to a contrary conclusion. They held that, inasmuch as the liability of an employer to pay compensation for injury to an employé was essentially a contractual one under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, such statutes had extraterritorial effect, to the extent that where the employer and the employé were both residents of the state where the contract of employment was made, the law of that state would be applied, even though the accident happened without the state.’

After considering some of the authorities he continues:

‘If, however, a claim under a compensation act is based on a contract, either express or implied, then there is no more reason why such a claim should not be decided in accordance with the law of the place where the contract is made, any more than there would be for a claim for wages in accordance with the law where the contract was made, even though the employé performed the services in several states.’

The Illinois court also sustains the contention of defendants' counsel. Union Bridge Co. v. Industrial Com., 287 Ill. 396, 122 N. E. 609. While it is true that by the title to the Illinois Act (Laws 1913, p. 335) it is limited to ‘accidental injuries or deaths suffered * * * within the state,’ the court did not rest decision on this fact alone, but followed the doctrine of the Gould Case.

The Supreme Court of California in North Alaska Salmon Co. v. Pillsbury, 174 Cal. 1, 162 Pac. 93, L. R. A. 1917E, 642, held that the act of that state did not cover accidents occurring outside the state. But the California Act is a compulsory one, not optional as is ours. This undoubtedly had much to do with the result in this case which was disposed of on rehearing.

Mr. Honnold treating of this subject (1 Honnold on Workmen's Compensation, § 8) says:

‘In view of the conflict of authority and differences between the various acts, it is difficult to formulate a precise rule relative to the extraterritorial operation of these laws; but it may be stated on the weight of authority that acts not construed to be contractual in character do not, in the absence of unequivocal language to the contrary, apply where the injury occurs outside the state, while, on the other hand, acts construed to be contractual protect one injured outside the state, where the contract of employment was made within the state and is governed by the laws of the state.’

We shall now consider the decision of some of the states sustaining the contention of plaintiff's counsel. The gist of the later decisions is quite well stated by the Supreme Court of Colorado in Industrial Com. v. AEtna Ins. Co., 64 Colo. 480, 174 Pac. 589, 3 A. L. R. 1336, where this question was before that court. After considering the Gould Case and quoting from Bradbury's second edition, it is said:

‘The later authorities in this country base the conclusion chiefly on the proposition that, under voluntary compensation statutes such as ours, the cause of action of petitioner is ex contractu, and that the lex loci contractus governs the construction of the contract and determines the legal obligations arising under it.

‘The provisions of the Compensation Act are

[183 N.W. 206]

to be construed as written into the contract, and therefore a part of it.’

The question has been before the courts of New Jersey on Several occasions. In Rounsaville v. Central Railroad, 87 N. J. Law, 371, 94 Atl. 392, it was said:

‘We are now dealing with the simpler question whether a New Jersey court will enforce a New Jersey contract according to the terms of a New Jersey statute. The question hardly calls for an answer. The...

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