Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Opinion of the Court.

who are engaged in operating it. Ford v. Fitchburg Railroad, 110 Mass. 240.

Directly in line with the case of Randall v. B. & O. Railroad Co. is that of the Quebec Steamship Co. v. Merchant, 133 U. S. 375, in which the stewardess of a steamship belonging to a corporation brought suit to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by her by reason of a defective railing at a gangway, which gave way as she leaned against it, and precipitated her into the water. The railing had been recently removed and the gangway opened to take off some freight, and had not been properly replaced by the porter and carpenter of the ship whose duty it was to replace them. It was held that, as the porter and carpenter were fellow-servants with the stewardess, the corporation was not liable. Said Mr. Justice Blatchford: "As the porter was confessedly in the same department with the stewardess, his negligence was that of a fellow-servant. The contention of the plaintiff is that, as the carpenter was in the deck department and the stewardess in the steward's department, those were different departments in such a sense that the carpenter was not a fellow-servant with the stewardess. But we think that, on the evidence, both the porter and the carpenter were fellow-servants with the plaintiff. The carpenter had no authority over the plaintiff, nor had the porter. There was nothing in the employment or service of the carpenter or the porter which made either of them any more the representative of the defendant than the employment and service of the stewardess made her such representative." The division of the crew into departments was treated as evidently for the convenience of administration upon the vessel, but having no effect upon the question of fellow-service. See also Baltimore & Ohio Railroad v. Andrews, 50 Fed. Rep. 728.

The case of the Chicago, Milwaukee &c. Railway v. Ross, 112 U. S. 377, is claimed to have laid down a different doctrine, and to be wholly inconsistent with the defence set up by the railroad in this case. This action was brought by the engineer of a freight train to recover damages occasioned by the joint negligence of the conductor of his own train and

[ocr errors]

Opinion of the Court.

that of a gravel train with which it came in collision. The case was decided not to be one of fellow-service upon the ground that the conductor was "in fact, and should be treated as, the personal representative of the corporation, for whose negligence it is responsible to subordinate servants." The court drew a distinction "between servants of a corporation, exercising no supervision over others engaged with them in the same employment, and agents of a corporation, clothed with the control and management of a distinct department, in which their duty is entirely that of direction and superintendence." In that particular case the court found that the conductor had entire control and management of the train to which he was assigned, directed at what time it should start, at what speed it should run, at what stations it should stop, and for what length of time, and everything essential to its successful movements, and that all persons employed upon it were subject to his orders. Under such circumstances he was held not to be a fellow-servant with the fireman, brakeman, and engineer, citing certain cases from Kentucky and Ohio, which maintained the same view.

It may be observed that quite a different question was raised in that case from the one involved here, in the fact that the liability of the company was placed upon a ground which has no application to the case under consideration, viz., that the person sustaining the injury was under the direct authority and control of the person by whose negligence it was caused. That it was not, however, intended in that case to lay down as a universal rule that the company is liable where the person injured is subordinate to the person causing the injury, is evident from the latest deliverance of this court in Baltimore & Ohio Railroad v. Baugh, 149 U. S. 368, in which an engineer and fireman were held to be, when engaged in their respective duties as such, fellow-servants of the railroad company, and the firemen precluded by principles of general law from recovering damages from the company for injuries caused by the negligence of the engineer.

Neither of these cases, however, is applicable here, since they involved the question of "subordination" of fellow

Opinion of the Court.

servants and not of "different departments." Of both classes of cases, however, the same observation may be made, viz., that to hold the principal liable whenever there are gradations of rank between the person receiving and the person causing the injury, or whenever they are employed in different departments of the same general service, would result in frittering away the whole doctrine of fellow-service. Cases arising between persons engaged together in the same identical service, as, for instance, between brakemen of the same train or two seamen of equal rank in the same ship, are comparatively rare. In a large majority of cases there is some distinction either in respect to grade of service, or in the nature of their employments. Courts, however, have been reluctant to recognize these distinctions unless the superiority of the person causing the injury was such as to put him rather in the category of principal than of agent, as, for example, the superintendent of a factory or railway, and the employments were so far different that, although paid by the same master, the two servants were brought no farther in contact with each other than as if they had been employed by different principals.

We think this case is indistinguishable in principle from Randall's case, which was decided in 1883, and has been accepted as a sound exposition of the law for over ten years; and that, unless we are prepared to overrule that case, the third question certified must be answered in the affirmative. The authorities in favor of the proposition there laid down are simply overwhelming.

We have thus far treated this case as determinable by the general and not by the local law, as was held to be proper both in the Ross case and in the case of Baugh. In so holding, however, the court had in view only the law of the respective States as expounded by their highest courts. Wherever the subject is regulated by statute, of course the statute is applied by the Federal courts pursuant to Revised Statutes, section 241, as a "law" of the State.

By section 3753, Compiled Laws of Dakota Territory, in one of the courts of which this case was originally com

Opinion of the Court.

menced," an employer is not bound to indemnify his employé for losses suffered by the latter in consequence of the ordinary risks of the business in which he is employed, nor in consequence of the negligence of another person employed by the same employer in the same general business, unless he has neglected to use ordinary care in the selection of the culpable employé." In the case of Elliot v. Chicago, Milwaukee &c. Railroad, 41 N. W. Rep. 758, a case which arose after the enactment of the above statute, the Supreme Court of the Territory held that a section foreman and a train conductor were co-employés within the purview of this statute, and were "engaged in the same general business." While this construction, given by the Supreme Court of a Territory, is not obligatory upon this court, it is certainly entitled to respectful consideration, and in a doubtful case might well be accepted as turning the scale in favor of the doctrine there announced. The opinion is a very elaborate one, reviews a large number of cases, and follows those of New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, as founded upon sounder principles. We may safely assume that the construction thus given to this statute will not be overruled by the courts of the two States which have succeeded the Supreme Court of the Territory without most cogent reasons for their action.

The third question certified must be answered in the affirmative.

The CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE FIELD, and MR. JUSTICE HARLAN dissented.

Statement of the Case.

REAGAN v. FARMERS' LOAN AND TRUST

COMPANY.

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS.

No. 928. Argued April 4, 5, 1894. - Decided May 26, 1894.

Without passing upon the validity of the 5th and 14th sections of the act of the legislature of Texas of April 3, 1891, establishing a railroad commission with power to classify and regulate rates, the remainder of the act is a valid and constitutional exercise of the state sovereignty, and the commission created thereby is an administrative board, created for carrying into effect the will of the State, as expressed by its legislation. A citizen of another State who feels himself aggrieved and injured by the rates prescribed by that commission may seek his remedy in equity against the commissioners in the Circuit Court of the United States in Texas, and the Circuit Court has jurisdiction over such a suit under the statutes regulating its general jurisdiction, with the assent of Texas, expressed in the act creating the commission.

Such a suit is not a suit against the State of Texas.

It is within the power of a court of equity in such case to decree that the rates so established by the commission are unreasonable and unjust, and to restrain their enforcement; but it is not within its power to establish rates itself, or to restrain the commission from again establishing

rates.

ON April 3, 1891, the legislature of the State of Texas passed an act to establish a railroad commission. The first section provides for the appointment and qualification of three persons to constitute the commission; the second for the organization of the commission, while the third defines the powers and duties of the commission, and is as follows:

"SEC. 3. The power and authority is hereby vested in the railroad commission of Texas, and it is hereby made its duty, to adopt all necessary rates, charges, and regulations to govern and regulate railroad freight and passenger tariffs, the power to correct abuses and prevent unjust discrimination and extortion in the rates of freight and passenger tariffs on the different railroads in this State, and to enforce the same by having the penalties inflicted as by this act prescribed through proper courts having jurisdiction.

« ForrigeFortsett »