Herrick v. Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway Co.

Decision Date11 July 1883
Citation16 N.W. 413,31 Minn. 11
PartiesFred. G. Herrick v. Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway Company
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Appeal by plaintiff from an order of the district court for Freeborn county, Farmer, J., presiding, refusing a new trial.

Order reversed.

Lovely & Morgan, for appellant.

J. D Springer, for respondent.

It is undoubtedly true, as a general rule, "that wherever, by either the common or statute law of a state, a right of action has become fixed, and a legal liability incurred, that liability may be enforced and the right of action pursued in any court which has jurisdiction of such matters and can obtain jurisdiction of the parties." To this rule however, there is an important qualification, supported by an overwhelming weight of authority, viz.: "that to sustain an action for a tort committed abroad, the lex fori and the lex loci delicti must concur in holding that the act complained of is the subject of legal redress." Wharton on Conflict of Laws, § 478; Cooley on Torts, 472; Rorer on Inter-State Law, 45; Illinois C. Ry. Co. v Cragin, 71 Ill. 177; Selma, etc., R. Co. v Lacy, 43 Ga. 461; McCarthy v. Chicago, etc., R. Co., 18 Kan. 46; Richardson v. N. Y. C. R. Co., 98 Mass. 85; State v. Pittsburgh & C. R. Co., 45 Md. 41; Whitford v. Panama R. Co., 23 N.Y. 465; McDonald v. Mallory, 77 N.Y. 546; Leonard v. Columbia Steam Nav. Co., 84 N.Y. 48; Woodward v. Michigan, etc., R. Co., 10 Ohio St. 121; Nashville & C. R. Co. v. Eakin, 6 Cold. (Tenn.) 582; Needham v. Grand Trunk Ry. Co., 38 Vt. 294; Anderson v. Milwaukee & St. P. Ry. Co., 37 Wis. 321; Bettys v. Milwaukee & St. P. Ry. Co., 37 Wis. 323; Chicago, etc., R. Co. v. Doyle, 8 Am. & Eng. R. Cases, 171; Dennick v. Railroad Co., 103 U.S. 11. This action is contrary to the policy of this state and cannot be maintained. Foster v. Minn. Cent. Ry. Co., 14 Minn. 277, (360;) Brown v. Winona & St. P. R. Co., 27 Minn. 162; Collins v. St. Paul & S. C. R. Co., 30 Minn. 31.

The Iowa statute does not refer to all persons generally, nor to all public carriers, but only to railroad companies. It therefore contravenes the 14th amendment to the federal constitution. County of San Mateo v. Southern Pacific R. Co., 8 Am. & Eng. R. Cases, 1; S. C., 13 F. 722.


Mitchell, J.

The defendant owned and operated a line of railroad from Albert Lea, in this state, to Fort Dodge, in the state of Iowa. The plaintiff entered the service of defendant, in Iowa, as brakeman on one of its trains, to be operated wholly in that state. While coupling cars on his train in the discharge of his duty in that state, plaintiff was injured through the negligence of the engineer in charge of the train, under such circumstances as to give him a right of action under a statute of Iowa, which makes every corporation operating a railway in that state liable for all damages sustained by any person, including employes of such corporation, in consequence of the neglect of agents, or by mismanagement of the engineers or other employes of such corporation, when such wrongs are in any manner connected with the use or operation of any railway on or about which they shall be employed. Code of Iowa, 1873, tit. 10, c. 5, § 1307. This action was brought to recover damages for the personal injury thus sustained in that state. The court below dismissed the action, on the ground that the right of action thus accruing under the statute of Iowa could only be enforced in that state. The correctness of this ruling is the only question involved in this appeal.

The general rule is that actions for personal torts are transitory in their nature, and may be brought wherever the wrong-doer may be found, and jurisdiction of his person can be obtained. As to torts which give a right of action at common law, this rule has never been questioned, and we do not see why the transitory character of the action, or the jurisdiction of the courts of another state to entertain it, can in any manner be affected by the question whether the right of action is statutory or common-law. In actions ex contractu there is no such distinction, and there is no good reason why any different rule should be applied in actions ex delicto. Whenever, by either common law or statute, a right of action has become fixed and a legal liability incurred, that liability, if the action be transitory, may be enforced, and the right of action pursued, in the courts of any state which can obtain jurisdiction of the defendant, provided it is not against the public policy of the laws of the state where it is sought to be enforced. Of course, statutes that are criminal or penal in their nature will only be enforced in the state which enacted them; but the statute under which this action is brought is neither, being purely one for the reparation of a civil injury.

The statute of another state has, of course, no extraterritorial force, but rights acquired under it will always, in comity, be enforced, if not against the public policy of the laws of the former. In such cases the law of the place where the right was acquired, or the liability was incurred, will govern as to the right of action; while all that pertains merely to the remedy will be controlled by the law of the state where the action is brought. And we think the principle is the same, whether the right of action be ex contractu or ex delicto.

The defendant admits the general rule to be as thus stated, but contends that as to statutory actions like the present, it is subject to the qualification that, to sustain the action, the law of the forum and the law of the place where the right of action accrued must concur in holding that the act done gives a right of action. We admit that some text-writers -- notably, Rorer on Inter-State Law -- seem to lay down this rule, but the authorities cited generally fail to sustain it. We have examined all the numerous cases cited on this point by defendant, and we find only one which, in our opinion, sustains him, while several are really against him. Most of the cases thus cited belong to one or the other of the two following classes: First, cases which hold that statutes giving a right of action for injuries causing the death of another, having no extraterritorial operation, only apply to injuries inflicted in the state which enacted the statute, and not to injuries inflicted or acts done in another state. Such is the case of Whitford v. Panama R. Co., 23 N.Y. 465. This undoubtedly is the settled law, but it does not touch the present case. The second class consists of cases which hold that where the statute gives such a right of action to the personal representatives of the deceased, it can only be maintained by an administrator or executor appointed and acting under the laws of the state which enacted the statute, taking the ground that this right of action is not a right of property which passes to the estate but is for the benefit of the family or next of kin of the deceased, and therefore the statute contemplates the exercise of the power and the execution of the trust only by a personal representative appointed under domestic laws. To this class belong the cases of Richardson v. N. Y. Central R. Co., 98 Mass. 85, and Woodard v. Michigan, etc., R. Co., 10 Ohio St. 121. Some courts refuse to adopt...

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