Pacific Employers Ins Co v. Industrial Accident Commission of California, 158

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation59 S.Ct. 629,83 L.Ed. 940,306 U.S. 493
Docket NumberNo. 158,158
Decision Date27 March 1939

[Syllabus from pages 493-495 intentionally omitted] Messrs. W. N. Mullen and George C. Faulkner, both of San Francisco, Cal., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from Pages 495-496 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Frank J. Creede, Percy J. Creede, and Gordon S. Keith, all of San Francisco, Cal., for respondent, Kenneth Tator.

Mr. Everett A. Cotton, of San Francisco, Cal., for respondent, Industrial Accident Commission of California.

Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question is whether the full faith and credit which the Constitution requires to be given to a Massachusetts workmen's compensation statute precludes California from applying its own workmen's compensation act in the case of an injury suffered by a Massachusetts employee of a Massachusetts employer while in California in the course of his employment.

Petitioner, an insurance carrier, under the California Workmen's Compensation, Insurance and Safety Act, for the Pacific Coast branch of the employer, Dewey & Almy Chemical Company, a Massachusetts corporation, filed its petition in the California District Court of Appeal to set aside an award of compensation to an employee by the California Industrial Accident Commission. The grounds of the petition were, among others, that the employee, because he was regularly employed at the head office of the corporation in Massachusetts and was temporarily in California on the business of the employer when injured there, was subject to the workmen's compensation law of Massachusetts, and that the California Commission, in applying the California Act and in refusing to recognize the Massachusetts statute as a defense, had denied to the latter the full faith and credit to which it was entitled under Article 4, § 1 of the Constitution, U.S.C.A. The order of the District Court of Appeal denying the petition was affirmed by the Supreme Court of California. 10 Cal.2d 567, 75 P.2d 1058. We granted certiorari October 10, 1938, the question presented being of public importance. 305 U.S. 563, 59 S.Ct. 76, 83 L.Ed. —-.

The injured employee, a resident of Massachusetts, was regularly employed there under written contract in the laboratories of the Dewey & Almy Chemical Company as a chemical engineer and research chemist. In September 1935, in the usual course of his employment he was sent by his employer to its branch factory in California, to act temporarily as technical adviser in the effort to improve the quality of one of the employer's products manufactured there. Upon completion of the assignment he expected to return to the employer's Massachusetts place of business, and while in California he remained subject to the general direction and control of the employer's Massachusetts office, from which his compensation was paid.

He instituted the present proceeding before the California Commission for the award of compensation under the California Act for injuries received in the course of his employment in that state, naming petitioner as insurance carrier under that Act; the Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company, as insurer under the Massachusetts Act, was made a party. The California Commission directed petitioner to pay the compensation prescribed by the California Act, including the amounts of lien claims filed in the proceeding for medical, hospital and nursing services and certain further amounts necessary for such services in the future.

By the applicable Massachusetts statute, §§ 24, 26, c. 152, Mass.Gen.Laws (Ter.Ed.1932), an employee of a person insured under the Act, as was the employer in this case, is deemed to waive his 'right of action at common law or under the law of any other jurisdiction' to recover for personal injuries unless he shall have given appropriate notice to the employer in writing that he elects to retain such rights. Section 26 directs that without the notice his right to recover be restricted to the compensation provided by the Act for injuries received in the course of his employment, 'whether within or without the commonwealth.' See McLaughlin's Case, 274 Mass. 217, 174 N.E. 338; Migues' Case, 281 Mass. 373, 183 N.E. 847.

Article 20, § 21 of the California Constitution vests the legislature with plenary power 'to create and enforce a complete system of workmen's compensation', including 'adequate provisions for the comfort, health and safety and general welfare' of employees injured in the course of their employment, and their dependents, and to make 'full provision for such medical, surgical, hospital and other remedial treatment as is requisite to cure and relieve from the effects of such injury'. Sections 6, 9 and 29 of the California Workmen's Compensation, Insurance and Safety Act, Cal.Gen.Laws (Deering 1931) Act 4749, provide for compensation from insurance procured by the employer, in prescribed amounts, for injuries received by his employees in the course of their employment without regard to negligence and for the costs of medical attendance occasioned by the injuries. Section 27(a) provides that 'No contract, rule or regulation shall exempt the employer from liability for the compensation fixed by this act'. And § 58 provides that the commission shall have jurisdiction over claims for compensation for injuries suffered outside the state when the employee's contract of hire was entered into within the state. See Quong Ham Wah Co. v. Industrial Accident Comm., 184 Cal. 26, 192 P. 1021, 12 A.L.R. 1190. Both statutes are compensation acts, substituted for the common law remedy for negligence. The California Act is compulsory. § 6(a). The Massachusetts Act is similarly effective unless the employee gives notice not to be bound by it, which in this case he did not do. § 24.

Petitioner, which as insurance carrier has assumed the liability of the employer under the California Act, relies on the provisions of the Massachusetts Act that the compensation shall be that prescribed for injuries suffered in the course of the employment, whether within or without the state. It insists that since the contract of employment was entered into in Massachusetts and the employer consented to be bound by the Massachusetts Act, that, and not the California statute, fixes the employee's right to compensation whether the injuries were received within or without the state, and that the Massachusetts statute is constitutionally entitled to full faith and credit in the courts of California.

We may assume that these provisions are controlling upon the parties in Massachusetts, and that since they are applicable to a Massachusetts contract of employment between a Massachusetts employer and employee, they do not infringe due process. Bradford Electric Light Co. v. Clapper, 286 U.S. 145, 156 et seq., 52 S.Ct. 571, 574 et seq., 76 L.Ed. 1026, 82 A.L.R. 696. Similarly the constitutionality of the provisions of the California statute awarding compensation for injuries to an employee occurring within its borders, and for injuries as well occurring elsewhere, when the contract of employment was entered into within the state, is not open to question. Alaska Packers Association v. Industrial Accident Comm., 294 U.S. 532, 55 S.Ct. 518, 79 L.Ed. 1044; New York Central R. Co. v. White, 243 U.S. 188, 37 S.Ct. 247, 61 L.Ed. 667, L.R.A.1917D, 1, Ann.Cas.1917D, 629; Mountain Timber Co. v. Washington, 243 U.S. 219, 37 S.Ct. 260, 61 L.Ed. 685, Ann.Cas.1917D, 642.

While in the circumstances now presented, either state, if its system for administering workmen's compensation permitted, would be free to adopt and enforce the remedy provided by the statute of the other, here each has provided for itself an exclusive remedy for a liability which it was constitutionally authorized to impose. But neither is bound, apart from the compulsion of the full faith and credit clause, to enforce the laws of the other, Milwaukee County v. White Co., 296 U.S. 268, 272, 56 S.Ct. 229, 231, 80 L.Ed. 220; and the law of neither can by its own force determine the choice of law to be applied in the other. Cf. Ohio v. Chattanooga Boiler & Tank Co., 289 U.S. 439, 53 S.Ct. 663, 77 L.Ed. 1307. Petitioner, pointing to the conflict between the provisions of the two statutes, insists that the full faith and credit clause requires recognition of the Massachusetts statute as providing the ex- clusive remedy and as a defense to any proceeding for the award of compensation under the California Act. The Supreme Court of California has recognized the conflict and resolved it by holding that the full faith and credit clause...

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