Vandalia Railroad Company v. Railroad Commission of Indiana

Decision Date13 March 1913
Docket Number22,272
Citation101 N.E. 85,182 Ind. 382
PartiesVandalia Railroad Company v. The Railroad Commission of Indiana
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Rehearing Denied November 11, 1914.

From Superior Court of Marion County (80,171); Vinson Carter Judge.

Action by the Vandalia Railroad Company against The Railroad Commission of Indiana. From a judgment for defendant, the plaintiff appeals.


Samuel O. Pickens, Owen Pickens and John G. Williams, for appellant.

Frank S. Roby, Ward H. Watson, Elias D. Salsbury and Sol H. Esarey for appellee.


Erwin, J.

This was an action on the part of the appellant against the appellee, commenced in the Superior Court of Marion County, February 4, 1910, to set aside and to enjoin the enforcement and the collection of penalties for failure to comply with an order of the Railroad Commission of Indiana, made in pursuance of the act of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, approved March 6, 1909 (Acts 1909 p. 323, § 5533f Burns 1914), requiring appellant and other railroad companies operating lines of railroad in Indiana to equip all their locomotive engines, except engines used in switching, with headlights of not less than 1,500 candle-power, and naming a day that such appliances should be installed.

The complaint was in two paragraphs, and alleged among other averments of the complaint, that the act of the General Assembly, which authorizes the railroad commission to make and enforce the order to install and maintain a headlight on locomotives of railroad trains, running over lines in the State of Indiana contravenes the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana, and is therefore void. The appellee answered this complaint in one paragraph in which it recites the correspondence between the railroad commission and appellant in relation to the order of which appellant complained. The demurrer to the amended answer to the first and second paragraphs of amended complaint was overruled by the court, and appellant refusing to plead further, judgment was rendered against the appellant that it take nothing by its suit, and that appellee recover of appellant its costs, from which finding and judgment appellant appeals to this court.

The assignment of errors presents the following questions: (1) The overruling of appellant's demurrer to the amended answer to the first paragraph of the second amended complaint. (2) The overruling of appellant's demurrer to the amended answer to the second paragraph of the second amended complaint.

Appellant contends, (1) that the act of March 6, 1909, supra, authorizing the Indiana railroad commission to investigate and determine as to the efficiency of headlights now in use on locomotive engines, on the railroads of Indiana, and to prescribe efficient and practical headlights, and to make and enforce orders with reference thereto is void, because it violates the commerce clause of the Federal Constitution, in that it purports to give the railroad commission power over a subject--regulation of the equipment of instruments used by interstate railroads in conducting interstate commerce--and contends that it is solely within the power of Congress, by the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States and that, if the subject is not within the exclusive power of Congress, but is one concerning which the State may legislate in the absence of legislation by Congress, nevertheless the act is void, because it is superseded and rendered inoperative by acts of Congress covering the subject; (2) that the act in question is void for the reason that it purports to authorize the railroad commission, without notice and opportunity to be heard, to make and enforce orders against appellant, compliance with which would entail upon appellant great costs, and thereby deprive appellant of its property without due process of law, and deny to it the equal protection of the law, in violation of the 14th amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of the Constitution of the State of Indiana; (3) that the act is void because it delegates legislative power to the railroad commission in violation of § 1 of Art. 4 of the State Constitution; (4) and that it makes its operation to depend upon the will of the railroad commission, and is in conflict with § 1, Art. 25, of the Constitution.

The Constitution of the United States confers power on Congress, "To regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states and with the Indian tribes." Art. 1, § 8, Constitution of United States. Under this provision Congress derives its power to regulate interstate commerce. All powers not delegated to the Federal government by the Constitution are reserved to the states, and the states have full power over commerce which does not assume the character of interstate commerce, and may pass such laws regulating commerce within the states as they may deem expedient or politic. Luken v. Lake Shore, etc., R. Co. (1911), 248 Ill. 377, 94 N.E. 175, 140 Am. St. 220, 21 Ann. Cas. 82; People v. Chicago, etc., R. Co. (1906), 223 Ill. 581, 79 N.E. 144, 7 Ann. Cas. 1; People v. Erie R. Co. (1910), 198 N.Y. 369, 91 N.E. 849, 29 L. R. A. (N. S.) 240, 139 Am. St. 828, 19 Ann. Cas. 811; Detroit, etc., R. Co. v. State (1910), 82 Ohio St. 60, 91 N.E. 869, 137 Am. St. 758; Missouri Pac. R. Co. v. State (1910), 216 U.S. 262, 30 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed. 472; Missouri, etc., R. Co. v. Haber (1898), 169 U.S. 613, 18 S.Ct. 488, 42 L.Ed. 878; Reid v. Colorado (1902), 187 U.S. 137, 23 S.Ct. 92, 47 L.Ed. 108; 2 Elliott, Railroads 690; 4 Elliott, Railroads 1671. The adjudications on this subject by the Supreme Court of the United States with respect to the power of the state over the general subject of commerce are divisible into three clauses, viz., (1) Those in which the power of the state is exclusive. (2) Those in which the state may act in the absence of legislation by Congress. (3) Those in which the action of Congress is exclusive and the state can not interfere at all. Western Union Tel. Co. v. James (1896), 162 U.S. 650, 16 S.Ct. 934, 40 L.Ed. 1105.

We are of the opinion that this act of the legislature holds good under the second clause, supra, because the railroad commission is the agent to carry out the wishes of the legislature; and the legislature in passing the act of March 6, 1909, supra, intended that the railroad commission should investigate the use of headlights, and if found necessary to order, and enforce the order, that better and safer headlights be put into use, not only to protect the lives of travelers upon one train, but to protect the lives and property of travelers on any other train, running over the same road, and as there is no legislation by Congess regulating headlights this act is authorized until an act of Congress displaces or suspends its operation. The Supreme Court of the United States in numerous decisions has said that a statute enacted by the state, by virtue of its police power, is not inconsistent with an act of Congress, unless the conflict is so direct and positive that the two acts can not stand together. Savage v. Jones (1911), 225 U.S. 501, 32 S.Ct. 715, 56 L.Ed. 1182, and cases cited. The last case involved the constitutionality of an act of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, §§ 7939-7949 Burns 1914, Acts 1907 p. 354, Chap. 206. This same tribunal has declared that where there has been no direct legislation upon the precise subject-matter, that it is to be regarded as equivalent to a declaration by Congress that, until it sees proper to legislate thereon, the matter may be regulated by the state. County of Mobile v. Kimball (1880), 102 U.S. 691, 698, 26 L.Ed. 238; Pittsburgh, etc., R. Co. v. State (1909), 172 Ind. 147, 165, 87 N.E. 1034; Pittsburgh, etc., R. Co. v. State (1911), 223 U.S. 713, 32 S.Ct. 520, 56 L.Ed. 626; Chicago, etc., R. Co. v. State (1910), 219 U.S. 453, 461, 31 S.Ct. 275, 55 L.Ed. 290; Chicago, etc., R. Co. v. State (1908), 86 Ark. 412, 111 S.W. 456; Mondou v. New York, etc., R. Co. (1911), 223 U.S. 1, 54, 55, 32 S.Ct. 169, 56 L.Ed. 327, 38 L. R. A. (N. S.) 44; Missouri Pac. R. Co. v. Larabee Flour Mills Co. (1908), 211 U.S. 612, 623, 29 S.Ct. 214, 53 L.Ed. 352. The decisions of our State are all to the same effect. Southern R. Co. v. Railroad Com., etc. (1913), 179 Ind. 23, 100 N.E. 337; Pittsburgh, etc., R. Co. v. Hartford City (1908), 170 Ind. 674, 679, 82 N.E. 787, 85 N.E. 362, 20 L. R. A. (N. S.) 461; State v. Louisville, etc., R. Co. (1912), 177 Ind. 553, 96 N.E. 340, Ann. Cas. 1914 D 1284, and cases cited. There being no legislation by Congress relating to headlights on locomotives, this statute is within the power of the State to enact.

In the case of Atlantic Coast Line R. Co v. State (1910), 135 Ga. 545, 69 S.E. 725, 32 L. R. A. (N. S.) 20, the court holds an act of the Georgia legislature, which provides that railroad companies are required to equip and maintain headlights on locomotives used by such companies on their main lines after dark, which shall consume not less than 300 watts at the arc, with a reflector of not less than twenty-three inches in diameter and to keep it in good condition and providing a penalty for its violation, does not violate the due process clauses of the state and Federal Constitutions, because its enforcement will require a loss of property to the defendant in doing away with the headlight now in use, and cause the defendant to incur expense in equipping its locomotives with headlights required by this act. The act was passed in the legitimate exercise of the police power of the state, and is not void on the ground that its requirements are unreasonable. Statutes regulating other closely related subjects...

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