Fleming v. Richardson, No. 46821.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtBLISS
Citation24 N.W.2d 280,237 Iowa 808
Docket NumberNo. 46821.
Decision Date17 September 1946
PartiesFLEMING et al. v. RICHARDSON et al.

237 Iowa 808
24 N.W.2d 280

FLEMING et al.
v.
RICHARDSON et al.

No. 46821.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Sept. 17, 1946.


Appeal from District Court, Polk County; John J. Halloran, Judge.

Action in equity by Joseph B. Fleming et al. against the Commerce Commission of Iowa, to vacate and set aside an order of said commission requiring plaintiffs to desist from using upon its Iowa lines one-platform caboose cars. The trial court vacated the part of such order relating to interstate traffic but sustained it with regard to intrastate traffic. Defendants have appealed and plaintiffs have cross-appealed. Reversed on defendants' appeal and affirmed on plaintiffs' cross-appeal.

MANTZ, MILLER, SMITH, and HALE, JJ., dissenting.

[24 N.W.2d 281]

James A. Lucas, of Des Moines, for appellants.

J. G. Gamble, R. L. Read, and A. B. Howland, all of Des Moines, for appellees-cross-appellants.


BLISS, Justice.

On complaint of a trainmen's association that the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company was violating section 7972 of the 1939 Code of Iowa, by operating caboose cars on its railroads in Iowa, with but one platform, a hearing was had before the Iowa State Commerce Commission, which resulted in an order of the Commission directing the company to discontinue the use of one-platform cabooses on its Iowa lines. From the admission in the railway company's answer to the complaint the Commission found that since late in the year 1940 the company has used on certain branch lines in Iowa nineteen of such caboose cars equipped with a platform on but one end of the car. The Commission also found that such cabooses have indiscriminately been used on freight trains handling both interstate and intrastate traffic, and that they have been, and were then, being used at times with the platform end of the caboose next to freight cars ahead of it, and at other times with the platform end of the caboose at the extreme rear end of the train. There is no controversy about these facts. Since it was beyond the province of the Commission to pass upon the constitutionality of said section 7972, it was compelled to find that the railway company had violated this particular provision of the section. Other provisions of it are not involved in this proceeding.

The railway company, through its trustees, and pursuant to section 7887 of the 1939 Code (section 474.28 of the 1946 Code), brought appellate proceedings to the District Court of Polk County to vacate the order of the Commission. It was successful in that proceeding and the District Court, in conformity to its findings of fact and conclusions of law, entered a decree that, insofar as the Commission's order prohibited the use of one-platform cabooses

[24 N.W.2d 282]

by the railway in interstate commerce, it was invalid, and was therefore vacated, but that insofar as the order prohibited the use of such cabooses in purely intrastate commerce it was valid.

The defendants, as officers of the Iowa State Commerce Commission, have appealed from that part of the decree which is adverse to them, and the plaintiffs, as trustees of the railway company, have cross-appealed from the part of the decree which holds that the use of such cabooses in Iowa intrastate commerce is a violation of said section 7972.

Discussing first the appeal of the officers of the Commission, it appears that from the inception of this proceeding it has been the contention of the State Commerce Commission, 1st, that neither the United States Safety Appliance Acts, 45 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq., nor any order thereunder of the Interstate Commerce Commission, prescribed or specified a caboose platform as a safety appliance; 2nd, that neither Congress by those Acts, nor the Interstate Commerce Commission by its orders thereunder, had invaded, to say nothing of having occupied, the field pertaining to the construction of cabooses or caboose platforms, or the requirement of any particular type of caboose; and, 3rd, that if the Interstate Commerce Commission's Order of March 13, 1911, could reasonably be construed to be a prescription or authorization for types of cabooses to be used, which construction the defendants-appellants deny, the order does not include a one-platform caboose.

The cross-appellants, in their printed brief and argument, say this of their opponents' contentions:

‘In an attempt, therefore to concisely state the issues, as they are made to appear in the Commission's argument, we submit that they are as follows: 1. Is an outside platform on a caboose car merely a feature of construction or is it in the nature of a safety appliance or safety equipment? (Italics supplied.)

‘2. Do the standards of safety equipment provided for by the Interstate Commerce Commission in its order (Exhibit 3) authorize the use of a caboose car with one platform? * * * We believe that the first issue is the only issue of any materiality; * * *.’

The italicized words in question 1 do not fairly state that particular contention of the State Commission, nor do they state a very material matter. The contention of the Commission and one of the controlling factors in the determination of this appeal is not whether a platform on a caboose car is ‘in the nature of a safety appliance or safety equipment,’ but whether it is, in fact, a safety appliance which is specified in the Safety Appliances Acts, or in the Interstate Commerce Commission's order of March 13, 1911. The latter fact is of the lesser importance because the Commission has only such powers as are expressly given to it, or are clearly implied, by Congress. But the fact is that a caboose platform is neither expressly designated, nor impliedly included in the Safety Appliance Acts or in any order of the Commission. It is one thing to say that a caboose platform is specified as a safety appliance in the Acts or the order, and something quite different to say that ‘it is in the nature of a safety appliance or safety equipment.’ The doors and windows, in fact, every part of a caboose is ‘in the nature of a safety appliance or safety equipment’ because each and all of them conduce to the safety of, and render a protective service, to those in, or using, the caboose, but that does not bring these parts within the scope or intendment of any of these Acts, or of the order issued thereunder by the Interstate Commerce Commission. The number and the identification of each safety appliance specified in the Acts were of especial concern to Congress, to the Interstate Commerce Commission, and to the railroad companies, because the designation in the Acts of each safety appliance meant a large addition to the financial burden of the railroads in complying with the requirements, and was an important consideration in fixing the time in which compliance should be performed. For these reasons nothing was left by Congress to implication. Had it intended that a caboose platform was a safety appliance to be included in any of the Safety Appliance Acts, it would have said so. But it did not say so.

[24 N.W.2d 283]

The contentions of the Iowa Commissioners have not been successfully answered or avoided by the Trustees for the railway company or by the opinion of the trial court. Considering first the propositions for affirmance relied upon by the Trustees, in the order stated by them:

1. The Federal Safety Appliance Acts were enacted to promote the safety of railroad employees and the traveling public.

No one will dispute this. The purpose is so stated in the title to the first of these Acts. The proposition is of little materiality in this case.

2. By the enactment of these Acts, the Federal Government occupied the field of regulation concerning the standards of safety equipment of all cars, including caboose cars, used by interstate common carriers by railroad. Inasmuch as the Federal Government has supreme and exclusive power and authority in this field, it follows that the several states are without jurisdiction or power to legislate in the same field.

It must be conceded, and no one will contend otherwise, that under the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States (Article 1, section 8(3), ‘the Congress shall have Power * * * to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, * * *.’ The decisions of the United States Supreme Court have held that this power is plenary and unlimited. It will also be conceded that, by the Safety-Appliance Acts, Congress occupied the field of regulation with respect to the safety appliance designated therein, as applied to caboose cars, with and without platforms, and to all other cars used by railroad carriers in interstate commerce, and that within the circumscribed compass of the appliances so designated, the State of Iowa and all other states are without power to legislate.

3. ‘A platform on a caboose is a safety appliance, and is not merely a feature of construction;’

Herein lies a basic error in the opinion of the trial court, and in the contentions of the Trustees. It is an erroneous premise which destroys their conclusions. Its refutation depends upon facts and analysis of the Safety Appliance Acts and the order of the Interstate Commerce, which will be discussed later.

4. This proposition, which applies to the letter of the director of the Bureau of Safety of the Interstate Commerce Commission, will also be discussed later.

5. ‘The regulations of the Interstate Commerce Commission promulgated March 13, 1911 (Ex. 3), contain elaborate prescriptions for both caboose cars with and without platforms. Implicit in these regulations is the approval of the Interstate Commerce Commission of a caboose car with one platform or two platforms or with no platform whatsoever, as standard. The Federal Government has occupied the field, and legislation in that field by the State is nullified.’

There is no merit to this proposition, but what is said above of proposition 3 applies to proposition 5.

Proposition 6 is but an abridged duplication of...

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3 practice notes
  • Powers v. McCullough, Nos. 51796
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 8, 1966
    ...repugnance or conflict is so direct and positive the two acts cannot be reconciled or consistently stand together. Fleming v. Richardson, 237 Iowa 808, 830-831, 24 N.W.2d 280; Southern Pac. Co. v. State of Arizona, 325 U.S. 761, 65 S.Ct. 1515, 89 L.Ed. 1915; Terminal R. Ass'n of St. Louis v......
  • Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. v. Shields, No. 15193
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 17, 1955
    ...are officially determined by law or regulation to be such. Central Vermont R. Co. v. Perry, 1 Cir., 10 F.2d 132; Fleming v. Richardson, 237 Iowa 808, 24 N.W. 2d 280; Davis v. Manry, 266 U.S. 401, 45 S.Ct. 163, 69 L.Ed. 350; Hill v. Minneapolis, St. P. & S. S. M. R. Co., 160 Minn. 484, 200 N......
  • Chicago, R.I. & Pac. R. Co. v. Long, No. 47957
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 8, 1952
    ...mechanism. I have already referred to the commission's consideration of these matters as shown by its decision. Fleming v. Richardson, 237 Iowa 808, 844, 24 N.W.2d 280, 299, states: '* * *. While the expense of any police power regulation is always a matter for consideration (Atchison, Tope......
3 cases
  • Powers v. McCullough, Nos. 51796
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 8, 1966
    ...repugnance or conflict is so direct and positive the two acts cannot be reconciled or consistently stand together. Fleming v. Richardson, 237 Iowa 808, 830-831, 24 N.W.2d 280; Southern Pac. Co. v. State of Arizona, 325 U.S. 761, 65 S.Ct. 1515, 89 L.Ed. 1915; Terminal R. Ass'n of St. Louis v......
  • Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. v. Shields, No. 15193
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 17, 1955
    ...are officially determined by law or regulation to be such. Central Vermont R. Co. v. Perry, 1 Cir., 10 F.2d 132; Fleming v. Richardson, 237 Iowa 808, 24 N.W. 2d 280; Davis v. Manry, 266 U.S. 401, 45 S.Ct. 163, 69 L.Ed. 350; Hill v. Minneapolis, St. P. & S. S. M. R. Co., 160 Minn. 484, 200 N......
  • Chicago, R.I. & Pac. R. Co. v. Long, No. 47957
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 8, 1952
    ...mechanism. I have already referred to the commission's consideration of these matters as shown by its decision. Fleming v. Richardson, 237 Iowa 808, 844, 24 N.W.2d 280, 299, states: '* * *. While the expense of any police power regulation is always a matter for consideration (Atchison, Tope......

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