Johnson v. Southern Pacific Company No 32 Johnson v. Southern Pacific Company No 87

Decision Date19 December 1904
Docket Number87,Nos. 32,s. 32
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Johnson brought this action in the district court of the first judicial district of Utah against the Southern Pacific Company to recover damages for injuries received while employed by that company as a brakeman. The case was removed to the circuit court of the United States for the district of Utah by defendant on the ground of diversity of citizenship.

The facts were briefly these: August 5, 1900, Johnson was acting as head brakeman on a freight train of the Southern Pacific Company, which was making its regular trip between San Francisco, California, and Ogden, Utah. On reaching the town of Promontory, Utah, Johnson was directed to uncouple the engine from the train and couple it to a dining car, belonging to the company, which was standing on a side track, for the purpose of turning the car around preparatory to its being picked up and put on the next westbound passenger train. The engine and the dining car were equipped, respectively, with the Janney coupler and the Miller hook, so called, which would not couple together automatically by impact, and it was, therefore, necessary for Johnson, and he was ordered, to go between the engine and the dining car, to accomplish the coupling. In so doing Johnson's hand was caught between the engine bumper and the dining car bumper, and crushed, which necessitated amputation of the hand above the wrist.

On the trial of the case, defendant, after plaintiff had rested, moved the court to instruct the jury to find in its favor, which motion was granted, and the jury found a verdict accordingly, on which judgment was entered. Plaintiff carried the case to the circuit court of appeals for the eighth Circuit, and the judgment was affirmed. 54 C. C. A. 508, 117 Fed. 462.

Messrs. W. L. Maginnis, L. A. Shaver, and John M. Gitterman for petitioner and plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 2-7 intentionally omitted] Solicitor General Hoyt and Attorney General Moody for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 7-10 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Maxwell Evarts, Martin L. Clardy, and Henry G. Herbel for respondent and defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 10-13 intentionally omitted] Mr. Chief Justice Fuller delivered the opinion of the court:

This case was brought here on certiorari, and also on writ of error, and will be determined on the merits, without discussing the question of jurisdiction as between the one writ and the other. Pullman's Palace Car Co. v. Central Transp. Co. 171 U. S. 138, 145, 43 L. ed. 108, 111, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 808.

The plaintiff claimed that he was relieved of assumption of risk under common-law rules by the act of Congress of March 2, 1893 (27 Stat. at L. 531, chap. 196, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3174), entitled 'An Act to Promote the Safety of Employees and Travelers upon Railroads by Compelling Common Carriers Engaged in Interstate Commerce to Equip their Cars with Automatic Couplers and Continuous Brakes and their Locomotives with Driving-Wheel Brakes, and for Other Purposes.'

The issues involved questions deemed of such general importance that the government was permitted to file brief and be heard at the bar.

The act of 1893 provided:

'That from and after the first day of January, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, it shall be unlawful for any common carrier engaged in interstate commerce by railroad to use on its line any locomotive engine in moving interstate traffic not equipped with a power drivingwheel brake and appliances for operating the train-brake system. . . .

'Sec. 2. That on and after the first day of January, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, it shall be unlawful for any such common carrier to haul or permit to be hauled or used on its line any car used in moving interstate traffic not equipped with couplers coupling automatically by impact, and which can be uncoupled without the necessity of men going between the ends of the cars.'

'Sec. 6. That any such common carrier using any locomotive engine, running any train, or hauling or permitting to be hauled or used on its line any car in violation of any of the provisions of this act, shall be liable to a penalty of one hundred dollars for each and every such violation, to be recovered in a suit or suits to be brought by the United States District Attorney in the district court of the United States having jurisdiction in the locality where such violation shall have been committed, and it shall be the duty of such district attorney to bring such suits upon duly verified information being lodged with him of such violation having occurred.'

'Sec. 8. That any employee of any such common carrier who may be injured by any locomotive, car, or train in use contrary to the provision of this act shall not be deemed thereby to have assumed the risk thereby occasioned, although continuing in the employment of such carrier after the unlawful use of such locomotive, car, or train had been brought to his knowledge.'

The circuit court of appeals held, in substance, Sanborn, J., delivering the opinion and Lochren, J., concurring, that the locomotive and car were both equipped as required by the act, as the one had a power driving-wheel brake and the other a coupler; that § 2 did not apply to locomotives; that at the time of the accident the dining car was not 'used in moving interstate traffic;' and, moreover, that the locomotive, as well as the dining car, was furnished with an automatic coupler, so that each was equipped as the statute required if § 2 applied to both. Thayer, J., concurred in the judgment on the latter ground, but was of opinion that locomotives were included by the words 'any car' in the 2d section, and that the dining car was being 'used in moving interstate traffic.'

We are unable to accept these conclusions, notwithstanding the able opinion of the majority, as they appear to us to be inconsistent with the plain intention of Congress, to defeat the object of the legislation, and to be arrived at by an inadmissible narrowness of construction.

The intention of Congress, declared in the preamble and in §§ 1 and 2 of the act, was 'to promote the safety of employees and travelers upon railroads by compelling common carriers engaged in interstate commerce to equip their cars with automatic couplers and continuous brakes and their locomotives with driving-wheel brakes,' those brakes to be accompanied with 'appliances for operating the trainbrake system;' and every car to be 'equipped with couplers coupling automatically by impact, and which can be uncoupled without the necessity of men going between the ends of the cars,' whereby the danger and risk consequent on the existing system was averted as far as possible.

The present case is that of an injured employee, and involves the application of the act in respect of automatic couplers, the preliminary question being whether locomotives are required to be equipped with such couplers. And it is not to be successfully denied that they are so required if the words 'any car' of the 2d section were intended to embrace, and do embrace, locomotives. But it is said that this cannot be so because locomotives were elsewhere, in terms, required to be equipped with power driving-wheel brakes, and that the rule that the expression of one thing excludes another applies. That, however, is a question of intention, and as there was special reason for requiring locomotives to be equipped with power drivingwheel brakes, if it were also necessary that locomotives should be equipped with automatic couplers, and the word 'car' would cover locomotives, then the intention to limit the equipment of locomotives to power driving-wheel brakes, because they were separately mentioned, could not be imputed. Now it was as necessary for the safety of employees in coupling and uncoupling that locomotives should be equipped with automatic couplers as it was that freight and passenger and dining cars should be; perhaps more so, as Judge Thayer suggests, 'since engines have occasion to make couplings more frequently.'

And manifestly the word 'car' was used in its generic sense. There is nothing to indicate that any particular kind of car was meant. Tested by context, subjectmatter, and object, 'any car' meant all kinds of cars running on the rails, including locomotives. And this view is supported by the dictionary definitions and by many judicial decisions, some of them having been rendered in construction of this act. Winkler v. Philadelphia %& r. r/. Co. 4 Penn. (Del.) 387, 53 Atl. 90; Fleming v. Southern R. Co. 131 N. C. 476, 42 S. E. 905;East St. Louis Connecting R. Co. v. O'Hara, 150 Ill. 580, 37 N. E. 917; Kansas City, M. & B. R. Co. v. Crocker, 95 Ala. 412, 11 So. 262; Thomas v. Georgia R. & Bkg. Co. 38 Ga. 222; New York v. Third Ave. R. Co. 117 N. y. 404, 22 N. E. 755; Benson v. Chicago, St. P. M. & O. R. Co. 75 Minn. 163, 74 Am. St. Rep. 444, 77 N. W. 798.

The result is that if the locomotive in question was not equipped with automatic couplers, the company failed to comply with the provisions of the act. It appears, however, that this locomotive was in fact equipped with automatic couplers, as well as the dining car; but that the couplers on each, which were of different types, would not couple with each other automatically, by impact, so as to render it unnecessary for men to go between the cars to couple and uncouple.

Nevertheless, the circuit court of appeals was of opinion that it would be anunwarrantable extension of the terms of the law to hold that where the couplers would couple automatically with couplers of their own kind, the couplers must so couple with couplers of different kinds. But we think that what the act plainly forbade was the use of cars which...

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