Scott v. Industrial Acc. Commission

Citation293 P.2d 18,46 Cal.2d 76
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Decision Date03 February 1956
PartiesArthur Paul SCOTT, a minor, by his guardian ad litem, Henry R. Scott, Petitioner, v. INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT COMMISSION of the State of California, Respondent. Pacific Coast Borax Company et al., Real Property in Interest. L. A. 23815.

Hindman & Davis and E. Eugene Davis, Los Angeles, for petitioner.

Everett A. Corten and Daniel C. Murphy, San Francisco, for respondent.

Donald Gallagher and T. Groezinger, San Francisco, for real parties in interest.

Dryden, Harrington, Horgan & Swartz and Jacob Swartz, Los Angeles, as amici curiae on behalf of respondent and real parties in interest.


Petitioner (sometimes herein called plaintiff) seeks by mandamus or prohibition to halt proceedings in a matter pending before respondent Industrial Accident Commission, until a final judgment shall have been reached in a superior court action in which recovery of damages is sought for the same personal injuries as are involved in the Industrial Accident Commission matter. Defendant in the superior court action claims, and plaintiff disputes that the injuries were suffered while plaintiff was acting as defendant's employe. We have concluded that a stay of the commission proceedings should be ordered.

Petitioner alleges that he is a minor, nineteen years of age and that on August 15, 1952, while on the premises of Pacific Coast Borax Company as an invitee, he suffered personal injuries through the negligence of such company. On December 23, 1953, through a guardian ad litem, he filed an action against the company in the superior court in Los Angeles, seeking recovery for his injuries. The company as defendant filed its answer. On October 19, 1954, pursuant to leave of court, defendant filed an amended answer, pleading as a fifth affirmative defense, 'That the court herein has no jurisdiction of the action herein, the exclusive jurisdiction for injuries claimed by plaintiff being before the Industrial Accident Commission of the State of California.' On October 27, 1954, the cause was set for trial for February 1, 1955.

On November 19, 1954, pursuant to plaintiff's motion to strike, the court struck the above quoted fifth affirmative defense from defendant's amended answer. The issue of jurisdiction of the commission remained in the case, however, by reason of other allegations of the answer.

On November 23, 1954, defendant in the superior court action and State Compensation Insurance Fund as its workmen's compensation insurance carrier filed with the Industrial Accident Commission an application for adjustment of claim 1 arising out of the same personal injuries as those alleged by plaintiff in the superior court action, and at the same time requested a hearing thereon at the earliest possible date. This was the first proceeding filed with the commission in connection with the injuries, although it appears that immediately after petitioner was injured State Compensation Insurance Fund started paying him medical and compensation benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Law of this state, Labor Code, § 3201 et seq. These benefits, by December 23, 1953, the date petitioner filed the superior court action, totaled approximately $1,400 for compensation payments, in addition to the medical and hospital care.

On January 7, 1955, over petitioner's request for a stay of proceedings by reason of pendency of the superior court action, a hearing was held before a referee of the Industrial Accident Commission, testimony was taken, and the matter was continued for further hearing to March 8, 1955.

On January 24, 1955, defendant in the superior court action moved for continuance of the trial therein, on the ground that 'one of the main issues of the case is now being tried before the Industrial Accident Commission.' The motion was denied. On February 1, 1955, defendant's second motion for a continuance was likewise denied and the superior court action proceeded to trial on the same day. Following the close of the evidence defendant moved for a directed verdict on the ground that the evidence showed as a matter of law that plaintiff had been injured in the course of his employment by defendant and that the Industrial Accident Commission had exclusive jurisdiction of the controversy. The motion was denied; the cause was submitted to the jury; the jury failed to agree and on February 14, 1955, was discharged. Defendant thereafter moved for entry of judgment in its favor under the provisions of section 630 of the Code of Civil Procedure, on the same ground as it had moved for a directed verdict; the motion was denied on March 4, 1955; and the matter was set for retrial for June 14, 1955.

Following conclusion of the superior court trial in which the jury was discharged on February 14, 1955, petitioner again moved the Industrial Accident Commission to stay the proceedings before it and to continue the hearing set for March 8, 1955, but on February 24, 1955, his motion was denied by the referee who heard it. On March 8, 1955, petitioner filed this present stay proceeding with the District Court of Appeal. That court on March 24, 1955, issued its alternative writ of prohibition staying proceedings before the commission, and on May 16, 1955, filed its opinion ordering the issuance of a writ of mandamus. 283 P.2d 323. We granted a hearing and transferred the cause for further study of the problems involved. It appears that in the meantime a second superior court trial has been had and on June 27, 1955, judgment of nonsuit was rendered against plaintiff; on July 5, 1955, plaintiff filed notice of appeal, and the appeal is now pending in the District Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District.

The question thus presented is whether the Industrial Accident Commission may, and should, be required to suspend the exercise of its jurisdiction in the proceeding before it because of the pendency of the action in the superior court or on appeal therefrom. The issue is not one of simultaneous exercise of general concurrent jurisdiction; it is, rather, the right of proceeding simultaneously in two tribunals, the jurisdiction of each of which is essentially exclusive of the other but each of which has the power to make a determination of jurisdiction which, when final, will be conclusive upon the other.

General principles applicable to controversies in which the same parties and the same subject matter are involved are these: When two or more tribunals in this state have concurrent jurisdiction, the tribunal first assuming jurisdiction retains it to the exclusion of all other tribunals in which the action might have been initiated. Thereafter another tribunal, although it might originally have taken jurisdiction, may be restrained by prohibition if it attempts to proceed. Greene v. Superior Court, 1951, 37 Cal.2d 307, 310-311, 231 P.2d 821; Browne v. Superior Court, 1940, 16 Cal.2d 593, 597, 602, 107 P.2d 1, 131 A.L.R. 276; Slinack v. Superior Court, 1932, 216 Cal. 99, 105, 107, 13 P.2d 670; Lee v. Superior Court, 1923, 191 Cal. 46, 53, 214 P. 972; M. H. Golden, etc., Co. v. Superior Court, 1950, 98 Cal.App.2d 811, 221 P.2d 218; Myers v. Superior Court, 1946, 75 Cal.App.2d 925, 929-930, 172 P.2d 84; Milani v. Superior Court, 1943, 61 Cal.App.2d 463, 469, 143 P.2d 402, 935; Rilcoff v. Superior Court, 1942, 50 Cal.App.2d 503, 507, 123 P.2d 540; Wright v. Superior Court, 1941, 43 Cal.App.2d 181, 183-184, 110 P.2d 529; Gorman v. Superior Court, 1937, 23 Cal.App.2d 173, 178, 72 P.2d 774. One reason for the rule is to avoid unseemly conflict between courts that might arise if they were free to make contradictory decisions or awards at the same time or relating to the same controversy; another reason is to protect litigants from the expense and harassment of multiple litigation. Greene v. Superior Court, 1951, supra, 37 Cal.2d 307, 311, 312, 231 P.2d 821; Simmons v. Superior Court, 1950, 96 Cal.App.2d 119, 130, 214 P.2d 844, 19 A.L.R.2d 288; Gorman v. Superior Court, 1937, supra, 23 Cal.App.2d 173, 178, 72 P.2d 774.

In opposition to the granting of the writ respondent Industrial Accident Commission points out however, that the rules laid down in the cases are stated to apply and have been applied, in situations in which the first tribunal which exercised jurisdiction has such jurisdiction over the same parties and subject matter, could bring in any necessary new parties, and could do complete justice, dispose of the whole of the controversy, and afford all the relief sought. (See, e.g., Greene v. Superior Court, 1951, supra, 37 Cal.2d 307, 312, 231 P.2d 821 (child custody, guardianship); Browne v. Superior Court, 1940, supra, 16 Cal.2d 593, concurring opinion at page 602, 107 P.2d 1, at page 5 (guardianship of incompetent); Slinack v. Superior Court 1932, supra, 216 Cal. 99, 106, 13 P.2d 670 (partition of personal property, appointment of receiver); M. H. Golden, etc., Co. v. Superior Court, 1950, supra, 98 Cal.App.2d 811, 815-816, 221 P.2d 218 (accounting, contract, money judgment); Simmons v. Superior Court, 1950, supra, 96 Cal.App.2d 119, 131, 214 P.2d 844 (divorce, property rights); Myers v. Superior Court, 1946, supra, 75 Cal.App.2d 925, 929, 172 P.2d 84 (rights in property, under purchase and sale contract); Rilcoff v. Superior Court, 1942, supra, 50 Cal.App.2d 503, 505, 123 P.2d 540 (divorce, separate maintenance); Wright v. Superior Court, 1941, supra, 43 Cal.App.2d 181, 183, 110 P.2d 529 (partnership dissolution); Gorman v. Superior Court, 1937, supra, 23 Cal.App.2d 173, 177, 72 P.2d 774 (automobile collision damages); see also Reilly v. Police Court, 1924, 194 Cal. 375, 378, 228 P. 860; De Brincat v. Mogan, 1934, 1 Cal.App.2d 7, 10, 36 P.2d 245; 13 Cal.Jur.2d 607-613; 21 C.J.S. Courts, § 492, pages 751-755; 14 Am.Jur. 437-440.) The same general principles appear to prevail where defendant enters a plea in abatement, by either demurrer or answer,...

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