Hosea Tullis v. Lake Erie Western Railroad Company

Decision Date11 December 1899
Docket NumberNo. 71,71
Citation44 L.Ed. 192,175 U.S. 348,20 S.Ct. 136
PartiesHOSEA B. TULLIS, Plff. in Err. , v. LAKE ERIE & WESTERN RAILROAD COMPANY
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

This case comes to this court on the following certificate of the United States circuit court of appeals for the seventh circuit:

'In this case, duly argued and submitted to this court, there arises a question of law concerning which this court desires the instruction of the Supreme Court of the United States. The action was brought by the plaintiff in error to recover damages for an injury suffered while in the employment of the defendant in error, caused by a negligent act of a fellow servant, for which the defendant in error is alleged to be responsible by force of an act of the legislature of Indiana approved by the governor of the state March 4, 1893. The first section of the act reads as follows:

"1. That every railroad or other corporation, except municipal, operating in this state, shall be liable in damages for personal injury suffered by any employee while in its service, the employee so injured being in the exercise of due care and diligence, in the following cases:

"First. When such injury is suffered by reason of any defect in the condition of ways, works, plant, tools, and machinery connected with or in use in the business of such corporation, when such defect was the result of negligence on the part of the corporation, or some person intrusted by it with the duty of keeping such way, works, plant, tools, or machinery in proper condition.

"Second. Where such injury resulted from the negligence of any person in the service of such corporation, to whose order or direction the injured employee at the time of the injury was bound to conform, and did conform.

"Third. Where such injury resulted from the act or omission of any person done or made in obedience to any rule, regulation, or by-law of such corporation, or in obedience to the particular instructions given by any person delegated with the authority of the corporation in that behalf.

"Fourth. Where such injury was caused by the negligence of any person in the service of such corporation who has charge of any signal, telegraph office, switch yard, shop, round house, locomotive engine, or train upon on a railway, or where such injury was caused by the negligence of any person, coemployee, or fellow servant engaged in the same common service in any of the several departments of the service of any such corporation, the said person, coemployee, or fellow servant, at the time acting in the place, and performing the duty, of the corporation in that behalf, and the person so injured, obeying or conforming to the order of some superior at the time of such injury having the authority to direct; but nothing herein shall be construed to abridge the liability of the corporation under existing laws.'

'For the entire act reference is made to Session Laws of 1893, page 294, Burns's Annotated Indiana Statutes, Revision of 1894, paragraphs 7083 to 7087, inclusive.

'The Lake Erie & Western Railroad Company is a corporation of the state of Illinois owning and operating a railroad extending from Peoria, Illinois, into and through the state of Indiana. It is contended that the statute referred to is invalid because inconsistent with the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. If it be invalid the declaration shows no cause of action, and the errors alleged to have been committed at the trial become immaterial. The opinion of this court is that material error was committed at the trial for which the judgment below should be reversed if the statute mentioned is valid, and that if the statute mentioned is invalid the judgment should be affirmed. The question whether that statute is valid or violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States the court hereby orders certified and submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States for its proper decision.'

Mr. Addison C. Harris submitted the case for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. W. H. H. Miller, John B. Cockrum, and John B. Elam for defendant in error.

Mr. Chief Justice Fuller delivered the opinion of the court:

The contention is that the act referred to is in conflict with the 14th Amendment because it denies the equal protection of the laws to the corporations to which it is applicable.

In Pittsburgh, C. C. & St. L. R. Co. v. Montgomery, 152 Ind. 1, 49 N. E. 582, the statute in question was held valid as to railroad companies, and it was also held that objection to its validity could not be made by such companies, on the ground that it embraced all corporations except municipal, and that there were some corporations whose business would not bring them within the reason of the classification. In announcing the latter conclusion the court ruled in effect that the act was capable of severance; that its relation to ralation to railroad corporations was not essentially and inseparably connected in substance with its relation to other corporations; and that, therefore, whether it was constitutional or not as to other corporations, it might be sustained as to railroad corporations.

In Leep v. St. Louis, I. M. & S. R. Co. 58 Ark. 407, 23 L. R. A. 264, 25 S. W. 75, and St. Louis, I. M. & S. R. Co. v. Paul, 64 Ark. 83, 37 L. R. A. 504, 40 S. W. 705, an act of Arkansas of March 25, 1889, was held unconstitutional by the supreme court of that state so far as affecting natural persons, and sutained in respect of corporations; and in St. Louis, I. M. & S. R. Co. v. Paul, 173 U. S. 404, 43 L. ed. 746, 19 Sup. Ct. Rep. 419, that view of the act was accepted by this court because that court had so decided.

Considering this statute as applying to railroad corporations only, we think it cannot be regarded as in conflict with the 14th Amendment. Missouri P. R. Co. v....

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