Higginbotham v. Public Belt Railroad Commission, 34936

CourtLouisiana Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtLAND, Justice.
Citation192 La. 525,188 So. 395
Decision Date31 October 1938
Docket Number34936
PartiesHIGGINBOTHAM v. PUBLIC BELT RAILROAD COMMISSION et al

188 So. 395

192 La. 525

HIGGINBOTHAM
v.
PUBLIC BELT RAILROAD COMMISSION et al

No. 34936

Supreme Court of Louisiana

October 31, 1938


On Rehearing March 6, 1939; Second Rehearing Denied April 3, 1939

Judgment of the Court of Appeal affirmed.

John D. Nix, Jr., and Walter B. Hamlin, both of New Orleans, for Hazel Young Higginbotham.

Rosen, Kammer, Wolff & Farrar, of New Orleans, for Public Belt Railroad Commission.

William Boizelle, Asst. City Atty., of New Orleans, for City of New Orleans.

OPINION [188 So. 396]

[192 La. 528] LAND, Justice.

Relatrix is the surviving widow of George Ernest Higginbotham, who departed this life on the 2nd day of September 1937, in the parish of Jefferson, while in the employ of respondents, and is the duly qualified Natural Tutrix of their minor child, George Ernest Higginbotham, Jr.

Relatrix was married to George Ernest Higginbotham in the Parish of St. Bernard, November 2, 1934, and she and her husband, subsequent to their marriage, established the matrimonial domicile in the City of New Orleans, Parish of Orleans.

The suit of relatrix against respondents was filed in the Civil District for the [192 La. 529] Parish of Orleans, and is founded upon the following allegations of the petition:

"IV. That the said George Ernest Higginbotham at the time of his death was engaged by said defendants as maintenance man, on the Huey P. Long Bridge, in the Parish of Jefferson. That in line with and pursuant to his duties he was standing on the bridge on the West bank of the river taking soundings of the various piers and construction work to better ascertain that all was in good order.

"V. That soundings are taken by what might be termed a Plumb-bar with a weight attached to metal wires. That while so engaged his line came in contact with uninsulated wires of the Louisiana Power and Light Co. That said George Ernest Higginbotham received a severe electrical shock and was catapulted from the bridge to the pavement below, a distance of some 125 feet, and died instantly. That the said George Ernest Higginbotham was covered by the Workmen's Compensation Law, that is Act No. 20 of the General Assembly for the year 1914, as amended.

"VI. That under the terms of said Workmen's Compensation Law petitioner herein is entitled to compensation for the use and benefit of herself and minor child, forty six and one quarter per cent (46 1/4%) of his weekly wage for a period of 300 (three hundred) weeks together with an additional $ 150.00 to cover funeral charges, incidentals, etc.,

"VII. And petitioner now says that George Ernest Higginbotham averaged a [192 La. 530] weekly wage of $ 43.70; 46 1/4% of said weekly wage amounts to $ 20.21, which over a period of 300 weeks amounts to $ 6,063.00 which together with the said $ 150.00 herein referred to makes a total of $ 6,213.00 as first set forth and demanded in this petition."

The prayer of relatrix is for judgment in her favor, individually, and as Natural Tutrix of her minor child, against defendants, jointly, severally and in solido, for $ 20.21 per week over a period of 300 weeks, or $ 6,063, together with the sum of $ 150, and for all costs of suit.

After hearing had, judgment was rendered by the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans in favor of relatrix, individually, and as natural tutrix, as prayed for.

On appeal by respondents to the Court of Appeal for the Parish of Orleans, the exception of no right of action tendered by respondents was maintained, the judgment appealed from was reversed, and the suit of relatrix, individually, and as natural tutrix, was dismissed at her cost.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal for the Parish of Orleans is now before this court for review under the writ of certiorari herein granted.

(1) There is only one issue presented in this case. Respondents contend that the Huey P. Long Bridge is an instrumentality used in interstate commerce, and that this case falls under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C.A. §§ 51-59. On the other hand, relator asserts that the right of action arises under the State [192 La. 531] Workmen's Compensation Law, Act No. 20 of 1914, § 1, the deceased being an employee of the Public Belt Railroad Commission.

The pertinent part of Section 1 of the Federal Employers' Liability Act reads as follows:

"Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several States or Territories * * shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce, or, in case of the death of such employee, to his or her personal representative * * * for such injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment." U.S. Code, title 45, chapter 2, § 51, 45 U.S.C.A. § 51, Act of April 22, 1908, c. 149, § 1, 35 Stat. 65. [188 So. 397]

In Fluitt v. New Orleans, T. & M. R. Co., 187 La. 87, 94, 174 So. 163, 165, this Court said: "In order to hold that plaintiff's cause of action is governed by the federal statute, it must be found that plaintiff was engaged either in interstate transportation, or in work so closely related to such transportation as to be practically a part of it. Chicago & North Western Railway Co. v. Bolle, 284 U.S. 74, 52 S.Ct. 59, 76 L.Ed. 173; Shanks v. Delaware, Lackawanna & Western R. R. Co., 239 U.S. 556, 36 S.Ct. 188, 189, 60 L.Ed. 436, L.R.A.1916C, 797."

[192 La. 532] In the petition in this case there is no allegation that the Public Belt Railroad of the City of New Orleans is an interstate railroad, or that the Huey P. Long Bridge is used as a transportation facility by common carriers engaged in interstate commerce.

The mere allegation in the petition "That the said George Ernest Higginbotham at the time of his death was engaged by said defendants as maintenance man on the Huey P. Long Bridge, in the Parish of Jefferson," does not, by any means, show that deceased was engaged, either "in interstate transportation, or in work so closely related to such transportation as to be practically a part of it."

In order to bring the cause of action within the plain terms of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, it is necessary to allege also that, while the employee is engaged in interstate transportation, he was also injured, or that his death resulted, from the negligence of some officer, agent, or employee of such interstate common carrier. However, in the petition in this case there is no allegation that the death of the husband of relatrix was caused by the negligence of any officer, agent, or other employee of any interstate common carrier using the Huey P. Long Bridge as a transportation facility, nor is there any allegation that his death resulted by any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, machinery, track, roadbed, works, or by any defect in the Huey P. Long Bridge, or in any of its appliances. It is not alleged that the deceased was run over and killed by any [192 La. 533] engineor train of any interstate common carrier, through fault or negligence, while crossing this Bridge. On the contrary, the allegation is that, inline with his duties of plumbing the piers of the Bridge, the deceased was working below the superstructure of the Bridge, when the metal wire attached to his belt, and which he was using as a plumb-bar, came in contact with an uninsulated wire of the Louisiana Power and Light Co., engaged in lighting the Bridge, and he deceased was electrocuted and fell from the Bridge to the pavement.

This allegation of the petition shows clearly that tthe injury received by the husband of relatrix and resulting in his death, was an accidental injury, arising out of and in the course of his employment, without fault or negligance upon the part of respondents, or of any common carrier using the Bridge, thereby bringing the cause of action clearly within Section 1 of the State Workmen's Compensation Law, Act No. 20 of 1914.

The defect in the appliance that caused the death of the husband of relatrix was not an appliance owned and operated by respondents, or by any common carrier using the Bridge, but an appliance owned and operated negligently by the Louisiana Power and Light Co., taking the allegations of the petition as true, in passing upon the exception of no right of action.

(2) It is true that the exception of no right of action was overruled by the trial Judge, and the case was tried on its merits.

But the testimony in the case fails to show that the death of the husband of [192 La. 534] relatrix was due to any fault or negligence whatever upon the part of respondents, or any common carrier using this Bridge.

Nor is there any proof that his death was due to negligence by reason of any defect or insufficiency in the cars, engines, appliances, machinery, bridge or other equipment of any common carrier, or in the plumd-bar used by deceased in determining the horizontal movement of the piers of the Bridge.

The Operation, construction, repair, removal, maintenance, and demolition of railways, railroads and bridges are declared to be hazards, under Section 1, subd. 2(a), of the State Workmen's Compensation Law, Act No. 20 of 1914.

Section 1 of this Act declares that the Act shall apply only to the following: "1. Every person in the service of the State, or of any parish, township, incorporated village or city, or other political subdivision, or incorporated public board or commission in this State authorized by law to hold property and to sue and be sued, * * * and for such employee and employer the payment of compensation, according [188 So. 398] to and under the terms, conditions and provisions hereinafter set out in...

To continue reading

Request your trial
9 practice notes
  • State of California v. Taylor, No. 385
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 3, 1957
    ...to public railroads. Mathewes v. Port Utilities Commission, D.C.E.D.S.C., 32 F.2d 913; Higginbotham v. Public Belt Railroad Commission, 192 La. 525, 188 So. 395 (Sup.Ct.La.); Maurice v. State, 43 Cal.App.2d 270, 110 P.2d 706 (Cal.Dist.Ct. of App.) (involving the Belt Railroad now before us)......
  • Parden v. Terminal Railway of Alabama State Docks Department, No. 157
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 18, 1964
    ...a claim of sovereign immunity. Mathewes v. Port Utilities Comm'n, 32 F.2d 913 (D.C.E.D.S.C.1929); Higginbotham v. Public Belt R. Comm'n, 192 La. 525, 188 So. 395 (1938); Maurice v. State, 43 Cal.App.2d 270, 110 P.2d 706 (Cal.Dist.C.A.1941). Thus we could not read the FELA differently here w......
  • Morris v. Hankins, 35136
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Louisiana
    • April 3, 1939
    ...prescription of ten and thirty years are without merit, as plaintiffs failed to show that they had possession of the property for either [192 La. 525] of these periods of time, as required by law. It is axiomatic that the plaintiff must depend upon the strength of his own title in a petitor......
  • Menard v. Associated Royal Crown Bottling Co., No. 4512
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • June 7, 1971
    ...allegations, where such allegations can be made. Higginbotham v. Public Belt Railroad Commission, 181 So. 65 (Orl.La.App.1938); aff'd 192 La. 525, 188 So. 395. The court must consider the merit of permitting amendments in light of the petition and facts of each case. The facts of the case a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • State of California v. Taylor, No. 385
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 3, 1957
    ...to public railroads. Mathewes v. Port Utilities Commission, D.C.E.D.S.C., 32 F.2d 913; Higginbotham v. Public Belt Railroad Commission, 192 La. 525, 188 So. 395 (Sup.Ct.La.); Maurice v. State, 43 Cal.App.2d 270, 110 P.2d 706 (Cal.Dist.Ct. of App.) (involving the Belt Railroad now before us)......
  • Parden v. Terminal Railway of Alabama State Docks Department, No. 157
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 18, 1964
    ...a claim of sovereign immunity. Mathewes v. Port Utilities Comm'n, 32 F.2d 913 (D.C.E.D.S.C.1929); Higginbotham v. Public Belt R. Comm'n, 192 La. 525, 188 So. 395 (1938); Maurice v. State, 43 Cal.App.2d 270, 110 P.2d 706 (Cal.Dist.C.A.1941). Thus we could not read the FELA differently here w......
  • Morris v. Hankins, 35136
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Louisiana
    • April 3, 1939
    ...prescription of ten and thirty years are without merit, as plaintiffs failed to show that they had possession of the property for either [192 La. 525] of these periods of time, as required by law. It is axiomatic that the plaintiff must depend upon the strength of his own title in a petitor......
  • Menard v. Associated Royal Crown Bottling Co., No. 4512
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • June 7, 1971
    ...allegations, where such allegations can be made. Higginbotham v. Public Belt Railroad Commission, 181 So. 65 (Orl.La.App.1938); aff'd 192 La. 525, 188 So. 395. The court must consider the merit of permitting amendments in light of the petition and facts of each case. The facts of the case a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT