Erie Co v. Collins, No. 348

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMcKENNA
Citation40 S.Ct. 450,64 L.Ed. 790,253 U.S. 77
PartiesERIE R. CO. v. COLLINS
Docket NumberNo. 348
Decision Date17 May 1920

253 U.S. 77
40 S.Ct. 450
64 L.Ed. 790
ERIE R. CO.

v.

COLLINS.

No. 348.
Argued Jan. 8, 1920.
Decided May 17, 1920.

Page 78

Messrs. John W. Ryan and Adelbert Moot, both of Buffalo, N. Y., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from page 78-79 intentionally omitted]

Page 79

Mr. Hamilton Ward, of Buffalo, N. Y. (Mr. Irving W. Cole, of Buffalo, N. Y., of counsel), for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from page 79 intentionally omitted]

Page 80

Mr. Justice McKENNA delivered the opinion of the Court.

Action for damages under the federal Employers' Liability Act (Comp. St. §§ 8657-8665) brought in the District Court for the Western District of New York.

The following are the allegations of the complaint stated narratively:

December 25, 1915, and prior thereto, defendant was an operator of a steam railroad and engaged in interstate commerce. On and prior to that date plaintiff as an employe of defendant operated a signaling tower and water tank in the town of Burns, N. Y., the tower being used for the operation of trains in interstate and intrastate commerce. The tank was used for supplying the locomotives of the trains with water, which was pumped from a closeby well into the tank by a gasoline engine which plaintiff ran.

In the nighttime of December 25, 1915, while plaintiff was engaged in starting the engine the gasoline suddenly exploded burning him and seriously and painfully and permanently injurying him, causing him immediate and permanent suffering and the expenditure of large sums of money, by all of which he was damaged in the sum of $25,000.

The engine was defective, which was the cause of the explosion, plaintiff being guilty of no negligence.

Judgment was prayed in the sum of $25,000.

Defendant by demurrer attacked the sufficiency of the complaint and the jurisdiction of the court.

The court (Judge Hazel) overruled the demurrer but in doing so expressed the conflicting considerations which swayed for and against its strength but finally held the complaint sufficient, 'and that plaintiff was engaged in interstate commerce or that his work was so closely connected therewith as to be a part of it.' To this conclusion

Page 81

the court seemed to have been determined by Pedersen v. D., L. & W. R. R. Co., 229 U. S. 146, 33 Sup. Ct. 648, 57 L. Ed. 1125, Ann. Cas. 1914C, 153.

Defendant answered putting at issue the allegations of the complaint, and set up as separate defenses assumption of risk and contributory negligence.

A trial was had to a jury, during the course of which it was stipulated that at the time of plaintiff's injury and prior thereto 'trains carrying interstate commerce ran daily' and at such times 'water from the water tank was supplied daily in part to defendant's engines engaged in interstate commerce and in part to engines hauling intrastate freight.'

Motions for nonsuit and for a directed verdict were successively made and overruled.

The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff in the sum of $15,000 upon which judgment was entered against motion for arrest and new trial.

Error was then prosecuted to the Court of Appeals, which court affirmed the judgment, and to review its action this certiorari was granted.

The evidence presents very few matters of controversy. It establishes the employment of plaintiff by defendant, and its character, and presents the question whether it was in interstate commerce or intrastate commerce, in both of which, it is stipulated, defendant was engaged. And on this question the courts below decided the employment was in interstate commerce though exhibiting some struggle with opposing considerations.

They seemed to have been constrained to that conclusion by the same cases, and a review of them, h erefore, is immediately indicated to see whether in their discord or harmony, whichever exists, a solution can be found for the present controversy.

They all dealt with considerations dependent upon the

Page 82

distinctions of fact and law between interstate and intrastate commerce. A distinction, it may at once be said, is plain enough so far as the essential characteristics of the commerces are concerned, but how far instruments or personal actions are connected with either and can be assigned to either, becomes in cases a matter of difficulty, and ground, it may be, of divergent judgments. With this in mind we review the cases.

But first as to the facts in this. Defendant is an interstate railroad and upon its line running from other states to New York it operated in New York a signal tower and switches to attend which plaintiff was employed. It also had near the tower a pumping station, consisting of water tank, and a gasoline engine for pumping purposes through which instrumentalities water was supplied to its engines in whichever commerce engaged. While in attendance at the pumping station plaintiff was injured. And such is the case, that is, while in attendance at the pumping station, it...

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132 practice notes
  • Mississippi Cent R. Co. v. Knight, 24615
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • March 30, 1925
    ...250 U.S. 130, 63 L.Ed. 893; Southern Pacific Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission, 251 U.S. 259, 64 L.Ed. 258; Erie R. R. Co. v. Collins, 253 U.S. 77, 64 L.Ed. 790; Philadelphia & Reading R. R. Co. v. Polk, 256 U.S. 332, 65 L.Ed. 958; Industrial Accident Commission v. Davis, 259 U.S. 182, ......
  • Burnet v. Coronado Oil Gas Co, No. 341
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 11, 1932
    ...Illinois R. Co. v. Industrial Commission of Illinois, 284 U. S. 296, 52 S. Ct. 151, 76 L. Ed. 304, overruling Erie R. Co. v. Collins, 253 U. S. 77, 40 S. Ct. 450, 64 L. Ed. 790, and Erie R. Co. v. Szary, 253 U. S. 86, 40 S. Ct. 454, 64 L. Ed. 794; Gleason v. Seaboard Air Line Ry. Co., 278 U......
  • Gottshall v. Consolidated Rail Corp., No. 91-1926
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • March 11, 1993
    ...that emotional distress can be objectively validated to a sufficient degree by a precipitating physical injury. Erie R.R. Co. v. Collins, 253 U.S. 77, 85, 40 S.Ct. 450, 453, 64 L.Ed. 790 (1920) (plaintiff's emotional distress, including "shame and humiliation" and "mental pain," is cognizab......
  • L. & N.R. Co. v. Jolly's Admrx.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • January 14, 1930
    ...to the train and the fireman was injured on the ground while making a casual trip to his boarding house. In Erie R. Co. v. Collins, 253 U.S. 77, 40 S. Ct. 450, 452, 64 L. Ed. 709, the plaintiff operated a signal tower and water tank, the tower being used for the operation of trains in both ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
132 cases
  • Mississippi Cent R. Co. v. Knight, 24615
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • March 30, 1925
    ...250 U.S. 130, 63 L.Ed. 893; Southern Pacific Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission, 251 U.S. 259, 64 L.Ed. 258; Erie R. R. Co. v. Collins, 253 U.S. 77, 64 L.Ed. 790; Philadelphia & Reading R. R. Co. v. Polk, 256 U.S. 332, 65 L.Ed. 958; Industrial Accident Commission v. Davis, 259 U.S. 182, ......
  • Burnet v. Coronado Oil Gas Co, No. 341
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 11, 1932
    ...Illinois R. Co. v. Industrial Commission of Illinois, 284 U. S. 296, 52 S. Ct. 151, 76 L. Ed. 304, overruling Erie R. Co. v. Collins, 253 U. S. 77, 40 S. Ct. 450, 64 L. Ed. 790, and Erie R. Co. v. Szary, 253 U. S. 86, 40 S. Ct. 454, 64 L. Ed. 794; Gleason v. Seaboard Air Line Ry. Co., 278 U......
  • Gottshall v. Consolidated Rail Corp., No. 91-1926
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • March 11, 1993
    ...that emotional distress can be objectively validated to a sufficient degree by a precipitating physical injury. Erie R.R. Co. v. Collins, 253 U.S. 77, 85, 40 S.Ct. 450, 453, 64 L.Ed. 790 (1920) (plaintiff's emotional distress, including "shame and humiliation" and "mental pain," is cognizab......
  • L. & N.R. Co. v. Jolly's Admrx.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • January 14, 1930
    ...to the train and the fireman was injured on the ground while making a casual trip to his boarding house. In Erie R. Co. v. Collins, 253 U.S. 77, 40 S. Ct. 450, 452, 64 L. Ed. 709, the plaintiff operated a signal tower and water tank, the tower being used for the operation of trains in both ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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