Petersen v. Chicago, Great Western Ry. Co.

Citation149 ALR 755,138 F.2d 304
Decision Date26 October 1943
Docket NumberNo. 12598.,12598.
PartiesPETERSEN v. CHICAGO, GREAT WESTERN RY. CO.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)

R. B. Hasselquist, of Omaha, Neb. (Donald S. Krause, of Omaha, Neb., on the brief), for appellant.

John L. Barton, of Omaha, Neb. (Norris Brown, Raymond M. Crossman, Ralph M. West, and Robert A. Fitch, all of Omaha Neb., on the brief), for appellee.

Before WOODROUGH, THOMAS, and JOHNSEN, Circuit Judges.

JOHNSEN, Circuit Judge.

Under the Nebraska conflict of laws rule, lex loci delicti governs generally the basic rights and substantive incidents of actions brought in that state to recover damages for personal injuries sustained in another state.1 If such foreign law is not pleaded and proved, however, the Nebraska courts, like most states, apply the presumption that it is the same as the law of Nebraska.2

Appellant contends here that this presumption is a substantive part of the Nebraska conflict of laws rule,3 and that, under Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188, 114 A.L.R. 1487, and Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477, it is reversible error for a federal court in Nebraska, in any diversity of citizenship case, to fail to apply the law of that state, if the law of the foreign state has not been pleaded and proved. As applied to the specific situation of this appeal, the contention is that the trial court erred in applying the law of Iowa, which had not been formally pleaded or proved by either party, in an action brought by appellant in Nebraska,4 to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by her as a passenger on a railroad train in Iowa.

The Nebraska statute makes a railroad company "liable for all damages inflicted upon the person of passengers while being transported over its road, except in cases where the injury done arises from the criminal negligence of the persons injured, or when the injury complained of shall be the violation of some express rule or regulation of such road actually brought to his or her notice."5 Under this statute, a plaintiff is not required to allege or prove negligence.6 The Iowa statute makes a railroad company liable only for "damages caused by the negligence of the defendant".7 Under this statute, a plaintiff must allege and prove some negligence on the part of the carrier.8

The Iowa statute, as has been indicated, was not set out in the pleadings of either party, nor was it formally proved on the trial. Regardless, however, of whether, as an abstract proposition, the presumption as to the identicalness of foreign-state and local law should be treated as constituting a substantive part of the Nebraska conflict of laws rule,9 as appellant contends, it is clear from the Nebraska decisions that, if this action had remained in the Nebraska state court, that court, in the situation disclosed by the record, would have been entitled to apply the Iowa law to the rights of the parties, as was done here, and that appellant could not successfully have contended, on an appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court, that any error had been committed in doing so. There cannot possibly, therefore, have been any violation of Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins and Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., supra, in the present situation, for those decisions go no further, in their concrete application, than to require a federal court to follow the same substantive rules in diversity of citizenship cases that a state court would have applied in the particular case, in order that the accident of diversity of citizenship may not operate to disturb "equal administration of justice in coordinate state and federal courts sitting side by side."10

The record here shows that, while appellant did not specifically refer to the Iowa statute in her petition, she made allegations of negligence against the railroad company on the theory of the Iowa statute; that the answer of the railroad company similarly, without any question or attack by appellant, set up general defenses on the basis of the Iowa statute; that, at the time of the trial, appellant submitted to the court a memorandum brief setting out the Iowa statute and the Iowa decisions and manifestly intended to indicate the law upon which she was relying and to assist the trial court in applying it; that both parties introduced evidence on the facts of the accident, designed to and sufficient as to each of them, to establish a submissible case under the Iowa law; that, before the evidence was concluded, appellant filed a written request for the giving of five tendered instructions, framed wholly on the theory of the Iowa law; that she never at any time asked leave to withdraw these requested instructions, or to amend her petition to modify or change the issues which had been framed by the pleadings and to depart from her original legal theory, toward which the evidence of both parties had been directed; and that the only indication that she ever made on the trial that the court had no right to apply the Iowa law was at the time the argument of the case was about to begin, when she filed an additional requested instruction, to the effect that, since the law of Iowa had not been pleaded and proved, the law of Nebraska should be held to govern the action, and that it was not necessary for her, therefore, to have proved negligence on the part of the railroad company or its employees in order to entitle her to recover.

It is the refusal of the trial court to give this last tendered instruction which is here claimed to have constituted reversible error under the Erie Railroad Co. and Klaxon Co. cases, supra. It is admitted that the instructions given by the trial court were a correct statement of the Iowa law as applied to the issues raised by the pleadings and the evidence, and an examination of the court's instructions shows that they fully and fairly embodied the substance of the five instructions which appellant had originally tendered. The situation is therefore one where, from the institution of her action, through the course of the trial proceedings, and down to the time of the argument of the case to the jury, appellant must be held to have regarded the Iowa law as controlling her rights in the litigation; to have acquiesced in the trial court's adoption of that theory; and, indeed, to have specifically invited the court to make application of the Iowa law, by her memorandum brief and her originally tendered instructions.

The Nebraska Supreme Court has held that a case will be reviewed only in the light of the theory on which the parties proceeded in the trial court;11 that when a certain theory has been adopted and relied upon by the parties during the trial, it will be adhered to on appeal whether it is correct or not;12 that an appellant cannot in any event complain of any actions by the trial court which he invited or induced;13 and that "where several instructions to the jury in the trial of a case are requested, some of which are inconsistent with the others, and involve different theories of the case, a party submitting such instructions cannot complain of the trial court in adopting one of the theories of the case, and giving the instructions applicable thereto, and refusing those which were inconsistent with the ones given."14 Similar principles of practical estoppel have been applied by the federal courts.15

Since appellant's rights have been fairly determined in the federal court under the same rules that would have governed her action if it had remained in the Nebraska state court, she has no reason to complain here, and the judgment will accordingly be affirmed.

WOODROUGH, Circuit Judge.

I concur fully in the affirmance and the reasons given. It also seems to me that to disturb the judgment on the ground on which the appeal is taken would violate 28 U.S.C.A. § 777, and Rule 61, R. C. P., 28 U.S.C.A. following section 723c. The plaintiff here sued for damages for tort committed in Iowa, determinable by the law of Iowa, and the judgment was rendered upon application of that law to the evidence adduced. The defect in the pleading on which she seeks a new...

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13 cases
  • Boland v. Love
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • March 17, 1955
    ...as the common law of Pennsylvania." Waggaman v. General Finance Co., 3 Cir., 1940, 116 F.2d 254, 257; Petersen v. Chicago, G. W. Ry. Co., 8 Cir., 1943, 138 F.2d 304, 305, 149 A.L.R. 755; Mattox v. News Syndicate Co., 2 Cir., 1949, 176 F.2d 897, 901, 12 A.L.R.2d 988, certiorari denied, 1949,......
  • U.S. v. Matya
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • September 9, 1976
    ...judicially notice state law even though neither party raises it. Petersen v. Chicago G. W. Ry., 3 F.R.D. 346 (D.Neb.), affirmed, 138 F.2d 304 (8th Cir. 1943). See Simmons v. Continental Casualty Co., 410 F.2d 881, 884 (8th Cir. 1969). The Petersen holding accords with the result we reach he......
  • El Hoss Engineering & Transp. Co. v. American Ind. Oil Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • May 5, 1960
    ...which either might have to rely on Kuwait law, if such law in fact affects the problem before the court.2 Petersen v. Chicago, Great Western Ry., 8 Cir., 138 F.2d 304, 149 A.L.R. 755. See, also, Arams v. Arams, 182 Misc. 328, 45 N.Y.S.2d 251; Lennon v. Cohen, 264 Mass. 414, 421-422, 163 N.E......
  • O'Brien v. Rautenbush
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • November 26, 1956
    ...of a showing to the contrary, such laws will be presumed to be the same as the laws of the forum. Petersen v. Chicago, Great Western R. Co., 8 Cir., 138 F.2d 304, 149 A.L.R. 759; 20 Am.Jur. 182; Lloyd v. Mattews, 155 U.S. 222, 15 S.Ct. 70, 39 L.Ed. 128. This point of application of Wisconsi......
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