Northern Pacific Railway Company v. Mary Meese

Decision Date17 January 1916
Docket NumberNo. 133,133
Citation239 U.S. 614,60 L.Ed. 467,36 S.Ct. 223
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Charles W. Bunn for petitioner.

Messrs. Govnor Teats, Leo Teats, and Ralph Teats for respondents.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 615-616 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice McReynolds delivered the opinion of the court:

Benjamin Meese, an employee of the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company, was fatally injured on April 12, 1913, while engaged about his ordinary duties at its plant in Seattle. Alleging that his death resulted from the negligence of the petitioner railway company, his wife and children brought this action for damages in the district court of the United States. They relied upon the following sections, Remington & Ballinger's Annotated Codes and Statutes of Washington:

'Section 183. . . . When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, his heirs or personal representatives may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death.'

'Section 194. No action for a personal injury to any person occasioning his death shall abate, nor shall such right of action determine, by reason of such death, if he have a wife or child living, . . .; but such action may be prosecuted, or commenced and prosecuted, in favor of such wife or in favor of the wife and children. . . .'

The railway company demurred, specifying as one of the grounds therefor: 'That there is no authority in law under which the plaintiffs' action can be maintained as against this answering defendant, it appearing from the complaint that Benjamin Meese, on account of whose wrongful death this action was brought, sustained the injuries of which complaint is made, at the place of work and plant of his employer, and that plaintiffs' claim comes within the terms of chapter 74 of the Session Laws of the state of Washington for 1911, being an act relating to compensation of injured workmen,' approved March 14, 1911.

By the act referred to the legislature of Washington specifically repealed certain sections of Remington & Ballinger's Code, not including §§ 183 and 194; established a comprehensive plan for the relief of workmen injured in extrahazardous work, and their families and dependents, regardless of the question of fault; and likewise made provision for raising the necessary funds by enforced contributions from specified employers, both breweries and railroads being included.

The trial court (206 Fed. 222) held that the purpose of the act of March 14, 1911, was not merely to end controversies between employers and employees in respect of injuries to the latter, but to end all suits at law for the injury or death of employees while engaged in certain occupations, no matter by whom injured or killed, with certain exceptions not here important. And by a judgment dated July 11, 1913, the demurrer was accordingly sustained and the complaint dismissed.

This action of the trial court was reversed by the circuit court of appeals (127 C. C. A. 622, 211 Fed. 254, 4 N. C. C. A. 819), the latter being of opinion that the act in question did not, and was not intended to, deprive complainants of their right to proceed under §§ 183 and 194 of the Code, since deceased was not its employee when the accident occurred. Counsel for the railway called especial attention to Peet v. Mills, 76 Wash. 437, L. R. A. 1916A, 358, 136 Pac. 685, Ann. Cas. 1915D, 154, 4 N. C. C. A. 786, decided November 28, 1913, and insisted that the conclusions there announced were in accord with the opinion and judgment of the district court then under review; but the circuit court of appeals rejected this view, saying: 'We are unable to agree with counsel that the supreme court of the state of Washington in that case reached a conclusion different from that reached by us in the present case.'

The error now assigned and relied on is: 'That the circuit court of appeals should have followed Peet v. Mills, and have affirmed the judgment of the district court.'

It is settled doctrine that Federal courts must accept the construction of a state statute deliberately adopted by its...

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51 cases
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • June 24, 1996
    ...statute of limitations. Nevertheless, we address the constitutional issue raised by Plaintiff. In Northern Pac. Ry. Co. v. Meese, 239 U.S. 614, 36 S.Ct. 223, 60 L.Ed. 467 (1916), the Supreme Court summarily dismissed an equal protection challenge to a worker's compensation statute. And, in ......
  • Fireman's Fund American Ins. Co. v. Coleman
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • August 8, 1980
    ...a United States Supreme Court decision which is controlling on the equal protection argument: Northern Pacific Railway Co. v. Meese, 239 U.S. 614, 36 S.Ct. 223, 60 L.Ed. 467 (1916). The Meese case was based upon an action for wrongful death brought by the widow of a covered brewery employee......
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • August 15, 1932
    ...that the interpretation of the Oregon law by the highest court of the state must be accepted by this court. N. P. Ry. Co. v. Meese, 239 U. S. 614, 36 S. Ct. 223, 60 L. Ed. 467; Truckee River Gen. Elec. Co. v. Benner (C. C. A.) 211 F. 79. No cases are cited which, to my view, have any applic......
  • Clark v. Olson
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • March 29, 1934 Meese v. Northern Pacific R. Co. (D. C.) 206 F. 222, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in 239 U.S. 614, 36 S.Ct. 223, 60 L.Ed. 467, and in Bruce v. McAdoo, 65 Mont. 275, 211 P. 772. these two cases, it was held that, if the injuries are due to the negligence or......
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