Texas New Orleans Railroad Company v. Fannie Miller

Citation221 U.S. 408,55 L.Ed. 789,31 S.Ct. 534
Decision Date15 May 1911
Docket NumberNo. 831,831
PartiesTEXAS & NEW ORLEANS RAILROAD COMPANY and Louisiana Western Railroad Company, and Their Surety, the United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company, Plffs. in Err., v. FANNIE MILLER, G. W. Miller, William D. Miller, Dorrace H. Miller, and Fannie Miller, Suing as Next Friend, etc
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 408-410 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Maxwell Evarts, H. M. Garwood, and A. L. Jackson for plaintiffs in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 410-412 intentionally omitted] Mr. John W. Parker for defendants in error.

Mr Justice Van Devanter delivered the opinion of the court:

In that view of it which must be accepted here, this case may be stated as follows: It was an action to recover damages for the death of a locomotive engineer, resulting from the derailment of an engine which he was driving while in the service of two railroad companies which were jointly operating a line of railroad through the states of Louisiana and Texas. The derailment and ensuing death occurred in Louisiana, June 1, 1905, and proximately were caused by the negligence of the two companies. One of the companies was incorporated by a Louisiana statute of March 30, 1878, which contained a provision exempting the company from liability for the death of any person in its service, even if caused by its negligence. Laws of Louisiana 1878, No. 21, § 17, p. 267. Another Louisiana statute, enacted July 10, 1884, and still in force, conferred upon designated relatives a right to recover the damages sustained by them through the death of a person, negligently caused by another, but subjected the right to the limitation that the action to enforce it should be begun within one year from the death. Laws of Louisiana 1884, No. 71, p. 94. Merrick's Rev. Civ. Code, art. 2315. Within the time so prescribed the relatives so designated commenced in the district court of Harris county, Texas, an action to recover from the two railroad companies the damages sustained by the engineer's death. The complaint, although stating all the facts essential to a recovery under the statute, was defective as a complaint in the Texas court, because it did not conform to the rule prevailing in that state that statutes of other states cannot be noticed judicially, but must be pleaded. More than a year after the death, the defendants answered the complaint, and in their answers recognized the existence of the statute upon which the plaintiffs' action was founded, made allegations respecting it, and sought to enforce the one-year limitation therein. At the trial the statutes of 1878 and 1884 were both duly proved, and upon all the evidence the finding and judgment were for the plaintiffs. The defendants appealed to the court of civil appeals of the state, where the judgment was affirmed (128 S. W 1165), and then sued out this writ of error. In the trial court, and again in the court of civil appeals, it was held (1) that the exempting provision in the statute of 1878 was repealed by the statute of 1884, and (2) that what appeared in the answers respecting the statute of 1884 cured the defect in the complaint, and required that it be treated as an adequate and timely assertion of a right under that statute. In the assignments of error here these rulings are challenged upon the theory, which also was advanced in the state courts, that the exempting provision in the statute of 1878 was a contract, and could not be repealed consistently with the contract clause of the Federal Constitution, and that, if that provision was validly repealed by the statute of 1884, the answers filed more than a year after the death could not be treated as curing the defect in the complaint without disregarding the one-year limitation, and thereby violating the full-faith-and-credit clause of the Constitution.

The case is now before us on a motion to dismiss, with which is united a motion to affirm.

The doctrine that a corporate charter is a contract which the Constitution of the United States protects against impairment by subsequent state legislation is ever limited in the area of its operation by the equally well-settled principle that a legislature can neither bargain away the police power nor in any wise withdraw from its successors the power to take appropriate measures to guard the safety, health, and morals of all who may be within their jurisdiction. Boston Beer Co. v. Massachusetts, 97 U. S. 25, 24 L. ed. 989; Northwestern Fertilizing Co. v. Hyde Park, 97 U. S. 659, 24 L. ed. 1036; Stone v. Mississippi, 101 U. S. 814, 25 L. ed. 1079; Douglas v. Kentucky, 168 U. S. 488, 42 L. ed. 553, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 199. In the first of these cases it was said:

'Whatever differences of opinion may exist as to the extent and boundaries of the police power, and however difficult it may be to render a satisfactory definition of it, there seems to be no doubt that it does extend to the protection of the lives, health, and property of the citizens, and to the preservation of good order and...

To continue reading

Request your trial
78 cases
  • Louis Liggett Co v. Lee 12 8212 13, 1933, 301
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 13, 1933
    ...system of taxation. Citizens' Savings Bank v. Owensboro, 173 U.S. 636, 644, 19 S.Ct. 530, 571, 43 L.Ed. 840; Texas & N.O.R. Co. v. Miller, 221 U.S. 408, 414, 415, 31 S.Ct. 534, 55 L.Ed. 789; Erie R. Co. v. Williams, 233 U.S. 685, 701, 34 S.Ct. 761, 58 L.Ed. 1155, 51 L.R.A.(N.S.) 1097; Chene......
  • Sun Oil Company v. Wortman, 87-352
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1988
    ...220 (1914) ("If such decision existed, it was incumbent upon defendant to prove it as matter of fact"); Texas & N.O.R. Co. v. Miller, 221 U.S. 408, 416, 31 S.Ct. 534, 536, 55 L.Ed. 789 (1911) ("There was neither allegation nor proof that the court of last resort in Louisiana had considered ......
  • Pennsylvania Coal Co v. Mahon, 549
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 11, 1922
    ...since the civil liability was deemed a matter of public concern, and not a mere private right. Texas & New Orleans R. R. Co. v. Miller, 221 U. S. 408, 31 Sup. Ct. 534, 55 L. Ed. 789. Compare Boyd v. Alabama, 94 U. S. 645, 24 L. Ed. 302; Stone v. Mississippi, 101 U. S. 814, 25 L. Ed. 1079; B......
  • Bradford Electric Light Co v. Clapper, 423
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 16, 1932
    ...Ed. 610; Western Life Indemnity Co. v. Rupp, 235 U. S. 261, 274, 275, 35 S. Ct. 37, 59 L. Ed. 220; Texas & New Orleans R. Co. v. Miller, 221 U. S. 408, 416, 31 S. Ct. 534, 55 L. Ed. 789; Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Melton, 218 U. S. 36, 50, 52, 30 S. Ct. 676, 54 L. Ed. 921, 47 L. R. A.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 169 No. 5, April 2021
    • April 1, 2021
    ...m U.S. 746, 750-51 (1884) (quoting 2 JAMES KENT, COMMENTARIES ON AMERICAN LAW *340). (305) See Tex. & New Orleans R.R. Co. v. Miller, 221 U.S. 408, 413-15 (306) Butchers' Union, 111 U.S. at 750-51; see also New Orleans Gas Co. v. La. Light Co., 115 U.S. 650, 662 (1885) (referring to "ca......
    • United States
    • Journal of Law and Health Vol. 35 No. 1, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...33 (1877)). (339) Workman v. City of New York, 179 U.S. 552 (1900). (340) Id. at 585. (341) Id. (342) Texas & N.O.R. CO. v. Miller, 221 U.S. 408 (343) Id. at 414 (referring to the discussion of salus populi suprema lex in Boston Beer Co. v. Massachusetts, 97 U. S. 25, 32-33 (1877)). (34......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT