Martin Pedersen v. Delaware, Lackawanna Western Railroad Company

Decision Date26 May 1913
Docket NumberNo. 698,698
Citation57 L.Ed. 1125,33 S.Ct. 648,229 U.S. 146
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Benjamin Patterson and George Bell for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. James F. Campbell and William S. Jenney for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 146-149 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice Van Devanter delivered the opinion of the court:

This was an action under the employers' liability act of April 22, 1908 (35 Stat. at L. 65, chap. 149, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1911, p. 1322), to recover for personal injuries sustained by the plaintiff through the negligence of a coemployee while both were in the defendant's service. At the trial the circuit court refused to direct a verdict in the defendant's favor, and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, assessing his damages at $6,190. Subsequently the court, following a local statute (Pa. Laws 1905, p. 286, chap. 198), entered judgment for the defendant notwithstanding the verdict, on the ground that the latter was not sustained by the evidence. 184 Fed. 737. The judgment was affirmed

The act and the amendment of April 5, 1910 [36 Stat. at L. 291, chap. 143, U.S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1911, p. 1324 ], are printed in full in 223 U. S. p. 6, 56 L. ed. 329, 38 L.R.A. (N.S.) 44, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 169 by the circuit court of appeals (117 C. C. A. 33, 197 Fed. 537), and the plaintiff sued out this writ of error.

The evidence, in that view of it which must be taken here, was to the following effect: The defendant was operating a railroad for the transportation of passengers and freight in interstate and intrastate commerce, and the plaintiff was an iron worker employed by the defendant in the alteration and repair of some of its bridges and tracks at or near Hoboken, New Jersey. On the afternoon of his injury the plaintiff and another employee, acting under the direction of their foreman, were carrying from a tool car to a bridge, known as the Duffield bridge, some bolts or rivets which were to be used by them that night or very early the next morning in 'repairing that bridge,' the repair to consist in taking out an existing girder and inserting a new one. The bridge could be reached only by passing over an intervening temporary bridge at James avenue. These bridges were being regularly used in both interstate and intrastate commerce. While the plaintiff was carrying a sack of bolts or rivets over the James avenue bridge, on his way to the Duffield bridge, he was run down and injured by an intrastate passenger train, of the approach of which its engineer negligently failed to give any warning.

The circuit court ruled that an injury resulting from the negligence of a coemployee engaged in intrastate commerce was not within the terms of the Federal act, and the circuit court of appeals, although disapproving that ruling, held that under the evidence it could not be said that the plaintiff was employed in interstate commerce, and therefore he was not entitled to recover under the act.

Considering the terms of the statute, there can be no doubt that a right of recovery thereunder arises only where the injury is suffered while the carrier is engaged in interstate commerce, and while the employee is employed by the carrier in such commerce; but it is not essential where the causal negligence is that of a coemployee, that he also be employed in such commerce, for, if the other conditions be present, the statute gives a right of recovery for injury or death resulting from the negligence 'of any of the . . . employees of such carrier,' and this includes an employee engaged in intrastate commerce. Second Employers' Liability Cases (Mondou v. New York. N. H. & H. R. Co.) 223 U. S. 1, 51, 56 L. ed. 327, 346, 38 L.R.A.(N.S.) 44, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 169.

That the defendant was engaged in interstate commerce is conceded; and so we are only concerned with the nature of the work in which the plaintiff was employed at the time of his injury. Among the questions which naturally arise in this connection are these: Was that work being done independently of the interstate commerce in which the defendant was engaged, or was it so closely connected therewith as to be a part of it? Was its performance a matter of indifference so far as that commerce was concerned, or was it in the nature of a duty resting upon the carrier? The answers are obvious. Tracks and bridges are as indispensable to interstate commerce by railroad as are engines and cars; and sound economic reasons unite with settled rules of law in demanding that all of these instrumentalities be kept in repair. The security, expedition, and efficiency of the commerce depends in large measure upon this being done. Indeed, the statute now before us proceeds upon the theory that the carrier is charged with the duty of exercising appropriate care to prevent or correct 'any defect or insufficiency . . . in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment' used in interstate commerce. But independently of the statute, we are of opinion that the work of keeping such instrumentalities in a proper state of repair while thus used is so closely related to such commerce as to be in practice and in legal contemplation a part of it. The contention to the contrary proceeds upon the assumption that interstate commerce by railroad can be separated into its several elements, and the nature of each determined regardless of its relation to others or to the business as a whole. But this is an erroneous assumption. The true test always is: Is the work in question a part of the interstate commerce in which the carrier is engaged? See McCall v. California, 136 U. S. 104, 109, 111, 34 L. ed. 391, 392, 393, 3 Inters. Com. Rep. 181, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 881; Second Employers' Liability Cases (Mondou v. New York, N. H. & H. R. Co.) 223 U. S. 6, 59, 56 L. ed. 329, 350, 38 L.R.A.(N.S.) 44, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 169; Zikos v. Oregon R. & Nav. Co. 179 Fed. 893, 897, 898; Central R. Co. v. Colasurdo, 113 C. C. A. 379, 192 Fed. 901; Darr v. Baltimore & O. R. Co. 197 Fed. 665; Northern P. R. Co. v. Maerkl, 117 C. C. A. 237, 198 Fed. 1. Of course, we are not here concerned with the construction of tracks, bridges, engines, or cars which have not as yet become instrumentalities in such commerce, but only with the work of maintaining them in proper condition after they have become such instrumentalities and during their use as such.

True, a track or bridge may be used in both...

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