Silver v. Silver

Decision Date25 November 1929
Docket NumberNo. 24,24
Citation50 S.Ct. 57,280 U.S. 117,65 A.L.R. 939,74 L.Ed. 221
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Thomas R. Robinson, Arthur B. O'Keefe, David M. Reilly and Herman Levine, all of New Haven, Conn., for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from page 118 intentionally omitted] Mr. Wm. L. Hadden, of New Haven, Conn., for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 119-120 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal under section 237 of the Judicial Code, as amended by Act of February 13, 1925 (28 USCA § 344), from a judgment of the Supreme Court of Connecticut upholding the constitutionality of a state statute. Chapter 308 of the Public Acts of Connecticut of 1927 (printed in the margin1) provides that no person carried gratuitously as a guest in an automobile may recover from the owner or operator for injuries caused by its negligent operation. The appellant brought suit in the superior court of New Haven county against appellee, her husband, for injuries so sustained. Judgment for the defendant was affirmed by the Supreme Court. Both courts ruled that the statute barred appellant, a guest carried gratuitously, from recovery for injuries caused by ordinary negligence in the operation of the car, and the Supreme Court, by divided bench, held that the statute did not deny to appellant the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. 108 Conn. 371, 143 A. 240.

As the record does not disclose the constitutional grounds on which the appellant challenged the validity of the statute, our review will be limited to the single question arising under the Federal Constitution which was considered in the opinion of the court below. Saltonstall v. Saltonstall, 276 U. S. 260, 48 S. Ct. 225, 72 L. Ed. 565. We need not, therefore, elaborate the rule that the Constitution does not forbid the creation of new rights, or the abolition of old ones recognized by the common law, to attain a permissible legislative object. See Louis Pizitz Dry Goods Co. v. Yeldell, 274 U. S. 112, 116, 47 S. Ct. 509, 71 L. Ed. 952, 51 A. L. R. 1376; New York Central Railroad 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; Wilmington Star Mining Co. v. Fulton, 205 U. S. 60, 74, 27 S. Ct. 412, 51 L. Ed. 708.

The use of the automobile as an instrument of transportation is peculiarly the subject of regulation. We cannot assume that there are no evils to be corrected or permissible social objects to be gained by the present statute. We are not unaware of the increasing frequency of litigation in which passengers carried gratuitously in automobiles, often casual guests or licensees, have sought the recovery of large sums for injuries alleged to have been due to negligent operation. In some jurisdictions it has been judicially determined that a lower standard of care should be exacted where the carriage in any type of vehicle is gratuitous. See Massaletti v. Fitzroy, 228 Mass. 487, 118 N. E. 168, L. R. A. 1918C, 264, Ann. Cas. 1918B, 1088; Marcienowski v. Sanders, 252 Mass. 65, 147 N. E. 275; Epps v. Parrish, 26 Ga. App. 399, 106 S. E. 297. Whether there has been a serious increase in the evils of vexatious litigation in this class of cases, where the carriage is by automobile, is for legislative determination, and, if found, may well be the basis of legislative action further restricting the liability. Its wisdom is not the concern of courts.

It is said that the vice in the statute is not that it distinguishes between passengers who pay and those who do not, but between gratuitous passengers in automobiles and those in other classes of vehicles. But it is not so evident that no grounds exist for the distinction that we can say a priori that the classification is one forbidden as without basis, and arbitrary. See State of Ohio ex rel. Clarke v. Deckebach, 274 U. S. 392, 397, 47 S. Ct. 630, 71 L. Ed. 1115.

Granted that the liability to be imposed upon those who operate any kind of vehicle for the benefit of a mere guest or licensee is an appropriate subject of legislative...

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341 cases
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    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
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    ...v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 485 1970 * * *. Such action by a legislature is presumed to be valid.41 In Silver v. Silver, 280 U.S. 117, 122, 50 S.Ct. 57, 58, 74 L.Ed. 221 (1929), the Court, in upholding the constitutionality of a Connecticut automobile guest statute, stated in an opinion by M......
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    ...or the abolition of old ones recognized by the common law, to attain a permissible legislative object," Silver v. Silver, 280 U.S. 117, 122 [50 S.Ct. 57, 58, 74 L.Ed. 221] (1929), despite the fact that "otherwise settled expectations" may be upset thereby. Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Co.......
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    ...striking 'at the evil where it is felt, and [reaching] the class of cases where it most frequently occurs' (Sliver v. Silver, 280 U.S. 117, 123-124, 50 S.Ct. 57, 74 L.Ed. 221; Werner v. Southern Cal. Associated Newspapers, supra, 35 Cal.2d 121, 133, 216 P.2d 825). The Williamson case, supra......
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    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 64, 1989
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