Michigan Central Railroad Company v. Daniel Vreeland, No. 242

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtLurton
Citation57 L.Ed. 417,33 S.Ct. 192,227 U.S. 59
PartiesMICHIGAN CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY, Plff. in Err., v. DANIEL B. VREELAND, Administrator, etc
Docket NumberNo. 242
Decision Date20 January 1913

227 U.S. 59
33 S.Ct. 192
57 L.Ed. 417
MICHIGAN CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY, Plff. in Err.,

v.

DANIEL B. VREELAND, Administrator, etc.

No. 242.
Argued December 4, 1912.
Decided January 20, 1913.

Page 60

Messrs. Emery D. Potter, Frank E. Robson, Henry Russel, and Charles P. Carroll for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from page 60 intentionally omitted]

Page 61

Messrs. John B. Daish and Joseph D. Sullivan for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 61-63 intentionally omitted]

Page 63

Mr. Justice Lurton 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 damages for the wrongful death of the intestate, an employee in the service of the railroad company. The constitutionality of the act was drawn in question by the plaintiff in error in the court below, and this afforded ground for bringing the case directly to this court. Since the allowance of the writ of error all of the constitutional questions have been decided adversely to the plaintiff in error. Second Employers' Liability Cases (Mondou v. New York, N. H. & H. R. Co.) 223 U. S. 1, 56 L. ed. 327, 38L.R.A.(N.S.)44, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 169. But this does not justify

Page 64

our dismissing the case, since the constitutional questions which gave the right to bring it here were not foreclosed when the writ was allowed, and we therefore have jurisdiction to consider other assignments of error.

These relate to the construction of the act and the measure of damages thereunder. Sections 1 and 2 of the act of 1908, and § 2 of the amendatory act of April 5, 1910 [36 Stat. at L. 291, chap. 143, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1911, p. 1325], are set out in the margin.

Sec. 1. That every common carrier by railroad, while engaging in commerce between any of the the several states territories, or between any of the states and territories, or between the District of Columbia and any of the states or territories, or between the District of Columbia or any of the states or territories and any foreign nation or nations, 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 the benefit of the surviving widow or husband and children of such employee; and, if none, then of such employee's parents; and, if none, then of the next of kin dependent upon such employee, 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.

Sec. 2. That every common carrier by railroad in the territories, the District of Columbia, the Panama Canal Zone, or other possessions of the United States, shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in any of said jurisdictions, or, in case of the death of such employee, to his or her personal representative, for the benefit of the surviving widow or husband and children of such employee; and, if none, then of such employee's parents; and, if none, then of the next of kin dependent upon such employee, 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.

Section 2 of the act of April 5, 1910:

That said act be further amended by adding the following section as section nine of said act:

Sec. 9. That any right of action given by this act to a person suffering injury shall survive to his or her personal representative, for the benefit of the surviving widow or husband and children of such employee, and, if none, then of such employee's parents; and, if none, then of the next of kin dependent upon such employee, but in such cases there shall be only one recovery for the same injury.

Page 65

This case, however, involves only a construction of the act prior to the amendment referred to.

The decedent survived his injuries for several hours. His personal representative has brought this action, not for the injury suffered by his intestate, but for the loss suffered by his widow as a consequence of his wrongful death.

For the railroad company it has been argued that the fact that the injured employee survived his injuries for several hours operates to extinguish its liability for both the wrongful injury and the death which ensued. The view of counsel seems to be that the act declared a single liability and constituted a cause of action in behalf of the injured person if he survived, or, in case his death was instantaneous, a cause of action for the benefit of the specified dependent relatives surviving. This is a narrow interpretation of the act, and would operate to defeat all liability unless the injured person should survive long enough to conduct his action to a recovery.

We think the act declares two distinct and independent liabilities, resting, of course, upon the common foundation of a wrongful injury, but based upon altogether different principles. It plainly declares the liability of the carrier to its injured servant. If he had survived he might have recovered such damages as would have compensated him for his expense, loss of time, suffering, and diminished earning power. But if he does not live to recover upon his own cause of action, what then? Does any right of action survive his death and pass to his representative? This is a question which depends upon the statute.

Page 66

We may not piece out this act of Congress by resorting to the local statutes of the state of procedure or that of the injury. The act is one which relates to the liability of railroad companies engaged in interstate commerce to their employees while engaged in such commerce. The power of Congress to deal with the subject comes from its power to regulate commerce between the states.

Prior to this act Congress had not deemed it expedient to legislate upon the subject, though its power was ample. 'The subject,' as observed by this court in Second Employers' Liability Cases (Mondou v. New York, N. H. & H. R. Co.) 223 U. S. 1, 54, 56 L. ed. 327, 347, 38 L.R.A.(N.S.) 44, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 169, 'is one which falls within the police power of the state in the absence of legislation by Congress.' Nashville, C. & St. L. R. Co. v. Alabama, 128 U. S. 96, 99, 32 L. ed. 352, 353, 2 Inters. Com. Rep. 238, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 28. By this act Congress has undertaken to cover the subject of the liability of railroad companies to their employees injured while engaged in interstate commerce. This exertion of a power which is granted in express terms must supersede all legislation over the same subject by the states. Thus, in Gulf, C. & S. F. R. Co. v. Hefley, 158 U. S. 98, 104, 39 L. ed. 910, 912, 15 Sup. Ct. Rep. 802, it was said, in reference to state legislation touching freight rates upon interstate freight which conflicted with the legislation of Congress upon the same subject, that:

'Generally it may be said in respect to laws of this character that, though resting upon the police power of the state, they must yield whenever Congress, in the exercise of the powers granted to it, legislates upon the precise subject-matter, for that power, like all other reserved powers of the states, is subordinate to those in terms conferred by the Constitution upon the nation. 'No urgency for its use can authorize a state to exercise it in regard to a subject-matter which has been confided exclusively to the discretion of Congress by the Constitution.' Henderson v. New York (Henderson v. Wickham) 92 U. S. 259, 271, 23 L. ed. 543, 548. 'Definitions of the police power must, however, be taken, subject to the condition that the state cannot, in its exercise,

Page 67

for any purpose whatever, encroach upon the powers of the general government, or rights granted or secured by the supreme law of the land.' New Orleans Gaslight Co. v. Louisiana Light & H. P. & Mfg. Co. 115 U. S. 650, 661, 29 L. ed. 516, 520, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 252. 'While it may be a police power in the sense that all provisions for the health, comfort, and security of the citizens are police regulations, and an exercise of the police power, it has been said more than once in this court that, where such powers are so exercised as to come within the domain of Federal authority as defined by the Constitution, the latter must prevail.' Morgan's L. & T. R. & S. S. Co. v. Board of Health, 118 U. S. 455, 464, 30 L. ed. 237, 241, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1114.'

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  • Earl v. Bouchard Transp. Co., Inc., No. CV-85-4234.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • April 24, 1990
    ...the beneficiaries might have reasonably received if the deceased had not died from his injuries." Michigan Central Railroad v. Vreeland, 227 U.S. 59, 70, 33 S.Ct. 192, 196, 57 L.Ed. 417 (1913). Damages for the loss of prospective earnings therefore have been an integral part of recovery und......
  • Levering & Garrigues Co. v. Morrin, No. 50.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • August 23, 1932
    ...Store v. Am. Graphophone Co., 246 U. S. 8, 26, 38 S. Ct. 257, 62 L. Ed. 551, Ann. Cas. 1918C, 447; Michigan Central R. R. Co. v. Vreeland, 227 U. S. 59, 63, 33 S. Ct. 192, 57 L. Ed. 417, Ann. Cas. 1914C, 176. We are inclined to believe that the question could not properly be thought doubtfu......
  • Meehan v. Central Railroad Company of New Jersey
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 12, 1960
    ...the fitness of the parent, and that the child has been actually deprived of such advantages.' Michigan Central R. Co. v. Vreeland, 1913, 227 U.S. 59, 73, 33 S.Ct. 192, 197, 57 L.Ed. 181 F. Supp. 622 The children of decedent, their names, birth dates, ages and periods to commencement of coll......
  • Mississippi Cent R. Co. v. Knight, 24615
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • March 30, 1925
    ...of the United States in the following cases, in addition to others above cited: Michigan [138 Miss. 627] Central R. R. Co. v. Vreeland, 227 U.S. 59, 57 L.Ed. 417; Pederson v. Delaware, Lackawanna & Western R. R. Co., 229 U.S. 146, 57 L.Ed. 1125; New York Central & Hudson River R. R. Co. v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
658 cases
  • Earl v. Bouchard Transp. Co., Inc., No. CV-85-4234.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • April 24, 1990
    ...the beneficiaries might have reasonably received if the deceased had not died from his injuries." Michigan Central Railroad v. Vreeland, 227 U.S. 59, 70, 33 S.Ct. 192, 196, 57 L.Ed. 417 (1913). Damages for the loss of prospective earnings therefore have been an integral part of recovery und......
  • Levering & Garrigues Co. v. Morrin, No. 50.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • August 23, 1932
    ...Store v. Am. Graphophone Co., 246 U. S. 8, 26, 38 S. Ct. 257, 62 L. Ed. 551, Ann. Cas. 1918C, 447; Michigan Central R. R. Co. v. Vreeland, 227 U. S. 59, 63, 33 S. Ct. 192, 57 L. Ed. 417, Ann. Cas. 1914C, 176. We are inclined to believe that the question could not properly be thought doubtfu......
  • Meehan v. Central Railroad Company of New Jersey
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 12, 1960
    ...the fitness of the parent, and that the child has been actually deprived of such advantages.' Michigan Central R. Co. v. Vreeland, 1913, 227 U.S. 59, 73, 33 S.Ct. 192, 197, 57 L.Ed. 181 F. Supp. 622 The children of decedent, their names, birth dates, ages and periods to commencement of coll......
  • Mississippi Cent R. Co. v. Knight, 24615
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • March 30, 1925
    ...of the United States in the following cases, in addition to others above cited: Michigan [138 Miss. 627] Central R. R. Co. v. Vreeland, 227 U.S. 59, 57 L.Ed. 417; Pederson v. Delaware, Lackawanna & Western R. R. Co., 229 U.S. 146, 57 L.Ed. 1125; New York Central & Hudson River R. R. Co. v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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