Vandenbark v. Glass Co, OWENS-ILLINOIS

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREED
Citation311 U.S. 538,61 S.Ct. 347,85 L.Ed. 327
PartiesVANDENBARK v. GLASS CO
Decision Date06 January 1941
Docket NumberOWENS-ILLINOIS,No. 141

311 U.S. 538
61 S.Ct. 347
85 L.Ed. 327
VANDENBARK

v.

OWENS-ILLINOIS GLASS CO.

No. 141.
Argued Dec. 13, 1940.
Decided Jan. 6, 1941.

Messrs. Paul D. Smith and Thomas H. Sutherland, both of Marion, Ohio, for petitioner.

Mr. Lawrence E. Broh-Kahn, of Toledo, Ohio, for respondent.

Mr. Justice REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This certiorari brings before us for review the determination of the Circuit Court of Appeals that cases at law sounding in tort, brought in the federal courts on the ground of diversity of citizenship, are ruled by the state law as declared by the state's highest court when the judgment of the trial court is entered and not by the state law as so declared at the time of entry of the appellate court's order of affirmance or reversal. We granted the certiorari because of the uncertainty of the law upon this question as contained in this Court's former decisions.

Page 539

The petitioner here, Virginia Vandenbark, the plaintiff below, is a citizen of Arizona. The defendant, respondent here, the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, is a corporation of Ohio. Petitioner brought an action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio alleging that as an employee of respondent she had contracted various occupational diseases including silicosis through the negligence of respondent. The trial court sustained a motion to dismiss on the ground that the petition failed to state a cause of action. This ruling was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals with the statement that under the law of Ohio no recovery was permitted, at the time of the judgment in the trial court, for the type of occupational disease alleged by the petitioner to have been contracted by her as the result of respondent's negligence.1

It is conceded that at the time the motion to dismiss was sustained neither the Ohio Workmen's Compensation Act2 nor the common law, as interpreted by the supreme court of that state, gave a right of recovery to petitioner. The Constitution of Ohio3 authorized the passing of laws establishing a state fund out of which compensation for death injuries or occupational diseases was to paid employees in lieu of all other rights to compensation or damages from any employer who complied with the law. At the time of the dismissal of the petition by the trial court no provision had been made by statute for any of the occupational diseases included in petitioner's complaint. Respondent had fully complied with the Workmen's Compensation Act. The Ohio Constitution and compensation statutes passed pursuant to its authority had been consistently construed by the Ohio courts as

Page 540

withdrawing the common-law right and as denying any statutory right to recovery for petitioner's occupational diseases.4 After the action of the trial court in dismissing the petition, the Ohio supreme court reversed its former decisions and, in an opinion expressly overruling them, declared occupational diseases such as complained of by petitioner compensable under Ohio common law.5

While Erie Railroad v. Tompkins6 made the law of the state, as declared by its highest court, effective to govern tort cases cognizable in federal courts on the sole ground of diversity, there was no necessity there for discussing at what step in the cause the state law would be finally determined. In that case no change occurred in the state decisions between the accident and our judgment. There is nothing in the Rules of Decision section to point the way to a solution.7

During the period when Swift v. Tyson8 (1842—1938) ruled the decisions of the federal courts, its theory of their freedom in matters of general law from the authority of state courts pervaded opinions of this Court involving even state statutes or local law. As a consequence some decisions hold that a different interpretation of state law by state courts after a decision in a fed-

Page 541

eral trial court does not require the federal reviewing court to reverse the trial court.9

In Burgess v. Seligman, cited in the preceding note, a statute of Missouri relating to the liability of stockholders of a Missouri corporation was interpreted by the state supreme court contrary to the prior decision of the federal trial court. This Court affirmed the trial court, saying 'So, when contracts and transactions have been entered into, and rights have accrued thereon under a particular state of the decisions, or when there has been no decision of the state tribunals, the federal courts properly claim the right to adopt their own interpretation of the law applicable to the case, although a different interpretation may be adopted by the state courts after such rights have accrued.'10

What we conceive, however, to be the true rule to guide a federal appellate court where there has been a change of decision in state courts subsequent to the judgment of the district court was stated, before any of the opinions just cited, in United States v. Schooner Peggy.11 The Court there said 'It is in...

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254 practice notes
  • Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Farr
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 30, 1965
    ...558 (1940); Dinsmore v. Southern Express Co., 183 U.S. 115, 22 S.Ct. 45, 46 L.Ed. 111 (1901); cf. Vandenbark v. Owens-Illinois Glass Co., 311 U.S. 538, 61 S.Ct. 347, 85 L.Ed. 327 II. The application of the Amendment to the case at bar. It is urged that the Amendment does not apply to this c......
  • U.S. v. Rumpf, Nos. 76-1891
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • June 8, 1978
    ...changes in case law, Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234, 241, 88 S.Ct. 1556, 20 L.Ed.2d 554 (1968), Vandenbark v. Owens-Illinois Glass Co., 311 U.S. 538, 541-43, 61 S.Ct. 347, 85 L.Ed. 327 (1941), as well as to statutory changes, Carpenter v. Wabash Ry., 309 U.S. 23, 60 S.Ct. 416, 84 L.Ed. 5......
  • Universal Underwriters Insurance Company v. Wagner, No. 18296
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • November 7, 1966
    ...Anderson v. Sanderson and Porter, 8 Cir., 146 F.2d 58. In Magill and Anderson this court followed Vandenbark v. Owens-Illinois Glass Co., 311 U.S. 538, 61 S.Ct. 347, 85 L.Ed. 327 (1949). The general rule cited therein is found in United States v. Schooner Peggy, 1 Cranch 103 at 110, 2 L.Ed.......
  • DeVargas v. Mason & Hanger-Silas Mason Co., Inc., HANGER-SILAS
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 9, 1990
    ...decisions involve either: the retroactive application of judicial decisions, 11 see Vandenbark v. Owens-Illinois Page 1391 Glass Co., 311 U.S. 538, 542, 61 S.Ct. 347, 349, 85 L.Ed. 327 (1941); Patterson v. Alabama, 294 U.S. 600, 607, 55 S.Ct. 575, 578, 79 L.Ed. 1082 (1935); Sioux County v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
253 cases
  • Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Farr
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 30, 1965
    ...558 (1940); Dinsmore v. Southern Express Co., 183 U.S. 115, 22 S.Ct. 45, 46 L.Ed. 111 (1901); cf. Vandenbark v. Owens-Illinois Glass Co., 311 U.S. 538, 61 S.Ct. 347, 85 L.Ed. 327 II. The application of the Amendment to the case at bar. It is urged that the Amendment does not apply to this c......
  • U.S. v. Rumpf, Nos. 76-1891
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • June 8, 1978
    ...changes in case law, Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234, 241, 88 S.Ct. 1556, 20 L.Ed.2d 554 (1968), Vandenbark v. Owens-Illinois Glass Co., 311 U.S. 538, 541-43, 61 S.Ct. 347, 85 L.Ed. 327 (1941), as well as to statutory changes, Carpenter v. Wabash Ry., 309 U.S. 23, 60 S.Ct. 416, 84 L.Ed. 5......
  • Universal Underwriters Insurance Company v. Wagner, No. 18296
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • November 7, 1966
    ...Anderson v. Sanderson and Porter, 8 Cir., 146 F.2d 58. In Magill and Anderson this court followed Vandenbark v. Owens-Illinois Glass Co., 311 U.S. 538, 61 S.Ct. 347, 85 L.Ed. 327 (1949). The general rule cited therein is found in United States v. Schooner Peggy, 1 Cranch 103 at 110, 2 L.Ed.......
  • DeVargas v. Mason & Hanger-Silas Mason Co., Inc., HANGER-SILAS
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 9, 1990
    ...decisions involve either: the retroactive application of judicial decisions, 11 see Vandenbark v. Owens-Illinois Page 1391 Glass Co., 311 U.S. 538, 542, 61 S.Ct. 347, 349, 85 L.Ed. 327 (1941); Patterson v. Alabama, 294 U.S. 600, 607, 55 S.Ct. 575, 578, 79 L.Ed. 1082 (1935); Sioux County v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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