St Louis, Iron Mountain Southern Railway Company v. May Taylor, No. 201

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMoody
PartiesST. LOUIS, IRON MOUNTAIN, & SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, Plff. in Err., v. MAY TAYLOR, Administratrix in Succession of the Estate of George W. Taylor, Deceased
Docket NumberNo. 201
Decision Date18 May 1908

210 U.S. 281
28 S.Ct. 616
52 L.Ed. 1061
ST. LOUIS, IRON MOUNTAIN, & SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, Plff. in Err.,

v.

MAY TAYLOR, Administratrix in Succession of the Estate of George W. Taylor, Deceased.

No. 201.
Argued and Submitted April 14, 1908.
Decided May 18, 1908.

Page 282

Messrs. Rush Taggart, John F. Dillom, Lovick P. Miles, and Oscar L. Miles for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from page 282 intentionally omitted]

Page 283

Mr. Sam R. Chew for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from page 283 intentionally omitted]

Page 284

Mr. Justice Moody delivered the opinion of the court:

The defendant in error, as administratrix of George W. Taylor, brought, in the circuit court of the state of Arkansas, this action at law against the plaintiff in error, a corporation owning and operating a railroad. Damages were sought, for the benefit of Taylor's widow and next of kin, on account of his injury and death in the course of his employment as brakeman in the service of the railroad. It was alleged in the complaint that Taylor, while attempting, in the discharge of his duty, to couple two cars, was caught between them and killed. The right to recover for the death was based solely on the failure of the defendant to equip the two cars which were to be coupled with such drawbars as were required by the act of Congress known as the safety appliance law. 27 Stat. at L. 531, chap. 196, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3174. The defendant's answer denied that the cars were improperly equipped with drawbars, and alleged that Taylor's death was the result of his own negligence. At a trial before a jury upon the issues made by the

Page 285

pleadings, there was a verdict for the plaintiff, which was affirmed in a majority opinion by the supreme court of the state. The judgment of that court is brought here for re-examination by writ of error. The writ sets forth many assignments of error, but of them four only were relied upon in argument here, and they alone need be stated and considered. It is not, and cannot be, disputed that the questions raised by the errors assigned were seasonably and properly made in the court below, so as to give this court jurisdiction to consider them; so no time need be spent on that. But the defendant in error insists that the questions themselves, though properly here in form, are not Federal questions; that is to say, not questions which we, by law, are authorized to consider on a writ of error to a state court. For that reason it is contended that the writ should be dismissed. That contention we will consider with each question as it is discussed.

The accident by which the plaintiff's intestate lost his life occurred in the Indian territory, where, contrary to the doctrine of the common law, a right of action for death exists. The cause of action arose under the laws of the territory, and was enforced in the courts of Arkansas. The plaintiff in error contends that of such a cause, triable as it was in the courts of the territory created by Congress, the courts of Arkansas have no jurisdiction. This contention does not present a Federal question. Each state may, subject to the restrictions of the Federal Constitution, determine the limits of the jurisdiction of its courts, the character of the controversies which shall be heard in them, and, specifically, how far it will, having jurisdiction of the parties, entertain in its courts transitory actions where the cause of action has arisen outside its borders. Chambers v. Baltimore & O. R. Co. 207 U. S. 142, ante, 34, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 34. We have, therefore, no authority to review the decision of the state court, so far as it holds that there was jurisdiction to hear and determine this case. On that question the decision of that court is final.

The next question presented requires an examination of the

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act of Congress upon which the plaintiff below rested her right to recover. Section 5 of the safety appliance law is as follows:

'Within ninety days from the passage of this act the American Railway Association is authorized hereby to designate to the Interstate Commerce Commission the standard height of drawbars for freight cars, measured perpendicular from the level of the tops of the rails to the centers of the drawbars, for each of the several gauges of railroads in use in the United States, and shall fix a maximum variation from such standard height to be allowed between the drawbars of empty and loaded cars. Upon their determination being certified to the Interstate Commerce Commission, said Commission shall at once give notice of the standard fixed upon to all common carriers, owners, or lessees engaged in interstate commerce in the United States by such means as the Commission may deem proper. But should such association fail to determine a standard as above provided, it shall be the duty of the Interstate Commerce Commission to do so before July first, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, and immediately to give notice thereof as aforesaid. And after July first, eighteen hundred and ninety-five, no cars, either loaded or unloaded, shall be used in interstate traffic which do not comply with the standard above provided for.'

The action taken in compliance with this law by the American Railway Association, which was duly certified to and promulgated by the Interstate Commerce Commission, was contained in the following resolution:

'Resolved, that the standard height of drawbars for freight cars, measured perpendicular from the level of the tops of the rails to the centers of the drawbars, for standard-gauge railroads in the United States, shall be 34 1/2 inches, and the maximum variation from such standard heights to be allowed between the drawbars of empty and loaded cars shall be 3 inches.

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'Resolved, that the standard height of drawbars for freight cars, measured perpendicular from the level of the tops of the rails to the centers of the drawbars, for the narrow-gauge railroads in the United States, shall be 26 inches, and the maximum variation from such standard height to be allowed between the drawbars of empty and loaded cars shall be 3 inches.'

It is contended that there is here an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the railway association and to the Interstate Commerce Commission. This is clearly a Federal question. Briefly stated, the statute enacted that after a date named only cars with drawbars of uniform height should be used in interstate commerce, and that the standard should be fixed by the association and declared by the Commission. Nothing need be said upon this question except that it was settled adversely to the contention of the plaintiff in error in Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U. S. 470, 48 L. ed. 525, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 349,—a case which, in principle, is completely in point. And see Union Bridge Co. v. United States, 204 U. S. 364, 51 L. ed. 523, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 367, where the cases were reviewed.

Before proceeding with the consideration of the third assignment of error, which arises out of the charge, it will be necessary to set forth the course of the trial and the state of the evidence when the cause came to be submitted to the jury. This is done, not for the purpose of retrying questions of fact, which we may not do, but, first, to see whether the question raised was of a Federal nature; and, second, to see whether error was committed in the decision of it. Taylor was a brakeman on a freight train, which had stopped at a station for the purpose of leaving there two cars which were in the middle of the train. When this was done the train was left in two parts, the engine and several cars attached making one section and the caboose with several cars attached making the other. The caboose and its cars remained stationary, and the cars attached to the engine were 'kicked' back to make the coupling. One of the cars to be coupled had an automatic coupler and the other an old-fashioned link and pin coupler. That

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part of the law which requires automatic couplers on all cars was not then in force. In attempting to make the coupling Taylor went between the cars and was killed. The cars were 'kicked' with such force that the impact considerably injured those immediately in contact and derailed one of them. One of the cars to be coupled (that with the automatic coupler) was fully and the other lightly loaded. The testimony on both sides tended to show that there was some difference in the height of the drawbars of these two cars, as they rested on the tracks in their loaded condition, but there was no testimony as to the height of the drawbars if the cars were unloaded, except that, as originally made some years before, they were both of standard height. But as to the extent of the difference in the height of the drawbars, as the cars were being used at the time of the accident, there was a conflict...

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353 practice notes
  • Railroad Retirement Board v. Alton Co, No. 566
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 6, 1935
    ...employees in their freedom to organize for the purpose of safeguarding their interests. St. Louis, Iron Mountain & S.R. Co. v. Taylor, 210 U.S. 281, 28 S.Ct. 616, 52 L.Ed. 1061; Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 221 U.S. 612, 31 S.Ct. 621, 55 L.Ed. 878; Wilson v. Ne......
  • United States v. Edwards, No. 866-Y.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • April 4, 1936
    ...Union Bridge Co. v. United States (1907) 204 U.S. 364, 27 S.Ct. 367, 51 L.Ed. 523; St. Louis, Iron Mt. & Southern R. Co. v. Taylor (1908) 210 U. S. 281, 28 S.Ct. 616, 52 L.Ed. 1061; Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. North Carolina Corporation Commission (1907) 206 U.S. 1, 27 S.Ct. 585, 51 L.Ed.......
  • Kimberling v. Wabash Ry. Co., No. 32531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 30, 1935
    ...931; C., B. & Q. Railroad Co. v. United States, 220 U.S. 559, 31 Sup. Ct. 612, 55 L. Ed. 582; St. Louis, I.M. & S. Railroad Co. v. Taylor, 210 U.S. 281, 28 Sup. Ct. 616, 52 L. Ed. 1061; Philadelphia & R. Railroad Co. v. Auchenbach, 16 Fed. (2d) 550; Pennsylvania Railroad Co. v. Jones, 300 F......
  • Brady v. Terminal Railroad Assn., No. 33525.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 24, 1937
    ...Chicago, B. & Q. Railroad Co. v. United States, 220 U.S. 559, 31 Sup. Ct. 612, 55 L. Ed. 582; St. Louis, I.M. & S. Railroad Co. v. Taylor, 210 U.S. 281, 28 Sup. Ct. 616, 52 L. Ed. 1061; Ecclesine v. Railroad Co., 58 Mont. 470, 194 Pac. 143. (b) The fact that plaintiff was a car inspector do......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
353 cases
  • Railroad Retirement Board v. Alton Co, No. 566
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 6, 1935
    ...employees in their freedom to organize for the purpose of safeguarding their interests. St. Louis, Iron Mountain & S.R. Co. v. Taylor, 210 U.S. 281, 28 S.Ct. 616, 52 L.Ed. 1061; Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 221 U.S. 612, 31 S.Ct. 621, 55 L.Ed. 878; Wilson v. Ne......
  • United States v. Edwards, No. 866-Y.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • April 4, 1936
    ...Union Bridge Co. v. United States (1907) 204 U.S. 364, 27 S.Ct. 367, 51 L.Ed. 523; St. Louis, Iron Mt. & Southern R. Co. v. Taylor (1908) 210 U. S. 281, 28 S.Ct. 616, 52 L.Ed. 1061; Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. North Carolina Corporation Commission (1907) 206 U.S. 1, 27 S.Ct. 585, 51 L.Ed.......
  • Kimberling v. Wabash Ry. Co., No. 32531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 30, 1935
    ...931; C., B. & Q. Railroad Co. v. United States, 220 U.S. 559, 31 Sup. Ct. 612, 55 L. Ed. 582; St. Louis, I.M. & S. Railroad Co. v. Taylor, 210 U.S. 281, 28 Sup. Ct. 616, 52 L. Ed. 1061; Philadelphia & R. Railroad Co. v. Auchenbach, 16 Fed. (2d) 550; Pennsylvania Railroad Co. v. Jones, 300 F......
  • Brady v. Terminal Railroad Assn., No. 33525.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 24, 1937
    ...Chicago, B. & Q. Railroad Co. v. United States, 220 U.S. 559, 31 Sup. Ct. 612, 55 L. Ed. 582; St. Louis, I.M. & S. Railroad Co. v. Taylor, 210 U.S. 281, 28 Sup. Ct. 616, 52 L. Ed. 1061; Ecclesine v. Railroad Co., 58 Mont. 470, 194 Pac. 143. (b) The fact that plaintiff was a car inspector do......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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