« ForrigeFortsett »
244 U. S.
BRANDEIS, J., dissenting.
to which are contributed by employers generally. How the insurance fund shall be raised and administered; what the scale of compensation or relief shall be; how the contributing groups of employers shall be formed; whether or not a state fund shall be created; whether the individual employer shall be permitted to become a self-insurer; whether he shall be permitted to deal directly with the employee in making settlement of the compensation to be awarded; on all these questions the laws of the several States do and properly may differ radically.
What methods and means the State shall adopt in order to provide compensation for injuries to citizens or residents where Congress has left it free to legislate, rests (subject to constitutional limitations) wholly within the judgment of the State. It might conclude, in view of the hazard involved, that no one should engage in the occupation of railroading without providing against the financial consequences of accidents through contributing an adequate amount to an accident insurance fund. It might conIclude that it was wise to make itself the necessary contributions to such a fund, out of monies raised from general taxation. Or it might conclude, as the State of Washington did, that the fairest and wisest form of taxation for the purpose was to impose upon the employer directly the duty of making the required contributions-relying upon the laws of trade to effect, through the medium of transportation charges, an equitable distribution of the burden. The method last suggested is pursued in substance also by the State of New York. In its essence the laws of the States are the same in this respect, as is shown in Mountain Timber Co. v. Washington, 243 U. S. 219. It is misleading to speak of the new obligation of the employer to contribute to compensation for injuries to workmen as an increase of the "employer's liability." It is not a liability for a violation of a duty. It is a direct-a primary-obligation in the nature of a tax. And the right
BRANDEIS, J., dissenting.
244 U. S.
of the employee is as free from any suggestion of wrong done to him as the new right granted by Mothers' Pension Laws.
(F) Federal and State legislation are not in conflict.
The practical difficulty of determining in a particular case, according to presence or absence of railroad fault, whether indemnity is to be sought under the Federal Employers' Liability Act or under a state compensation law-affords, of course, no reason for imputing to Congress the will to deny to the States power to afford relief through such a system. The difficulty and uncertainty is, at worst, no greater than that which now exists in so many cases where it is necessary to determine whether the employee was, at the time of the accident, engaged in interstate or intrastate commerce.1 Expedients for minimizing inherent difficulties will doubtless be found by experience. All the difficulties may conceivably be overcome in practice. Or they may prove so great as to lead Congress to repeal the Federal Employers' Liability Act and leave to the States (which alone can deal comprehensively with it) the whole subject of indemnity and compensation for injuries to employees whether engaged in interstate or intrastate commerce, and whether such injuries arise from negligence or without fault of the employer.
We are admonished also by another weighty consideration not to impute to Congress the will to deny to the States this power. The subject of compensation for
1 The number of cases on the October 1915 term of this court was 1069. Of these 93 involved one or more questions arising under the Federal Employers' Liability Act of April 22, 1908. Of these 93 cases, 37 presented the question whether or not the employee was engaged in interstate commerce or intrastate commerce. In 52 of the cases the question was presented whether there was evidence of negligence on the part of defendant. In 24 of the cases the question was also presented whether or not the employee had assumed the risk.
244 U. S.
BRANDEIS, J., dissenting.
accidents in industry is one peculiarly appropriate for state legislation. There must, necessarily, be great diversity in the conditions of living and in the needs of the injured and of his dependents, according to whether they reside in one or the other of our States and Territories, so widely extended. In a large majority of instances they reside in the State in which the accident occurs. Though the principle that compensation should be made, or relief given, is of universal application, the great diversity of conditions in the different sections of the United States may, in a wise application of the principle, call for differences between States, in the amount and method of compensation, the periods in which payment shall be made, and the methods and means by which the funds shall be raised and distributed. The field of compensation for injuries appears to be one in which uniformity is not desirable, or at least not essential to the public welfare.
The contention that Congress has, by legislating on one branch of a subject relative to interstate commerce, preëmpted the whole field-has been made often in this court; and, as the cases above cited show, has been repeatedly rejected in cases where the will of Congress to leave the balance of the field open to state action was far less clear than under the circumstances here considered. Tested by those decisions and by the rules which this court has framed for its guidance, I am of opinion, as was said in Atlantic Coast Line R. R. Co. v. Georgia, 234 U. S. 280, 294, that: "The intent to supersede the exercise of the State's police power with respect to this subject cannot be inferred from the restricted action which thus far has been taken." The field covered by Congress was a limited field of the carrier's liability for negligence, not the whole field of the carrier's obligation arising from accidents. I find no justification for imputing to Congress the will to deny to a large class of persons engaged in a necessarily
hazardous occupation 1 and otherwise unprovided for the protection afforded by beneficent statutes enacted in the long-deferred performance of an insistent duty and in a field peculiarly appropriate for state action.
MR. JUSTICE CLARKE Concurs in this dissent.
ERIE RAILROAD COMPANY v. WINFIELD.
ERROR TO THE COURT OF ERRORS AND APPEALS OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY.
No. 353. Argued March 1, 1916; restored to docket for reargument November 13, 1916; reargued February 1, 2, 1917.—Decided May 21, 1917.
The duty of interstate railroad carriers to make compensation for injury or death of their employees in interstate commerce is regulated uniformly and exclusively by the Federal Employers' Liability Act and is thereby confined to cases of causal negligence. New York Central R. R. Co. v. Winfield, ante, 147.
It is beyond the power of any State to interfere with the operation of the federal act, either by putting carriers and their employees to an election between its provisions and those of a state statute or by imputing such an election to them through a statutory presumption. So held in the case of a New Jersey law containing provisions for compensation without regard to negligence, to be applicable when employer and employee elect to accept them, and presuming acceptance in the absence of a declaration to the contrary.
In leaving the yard after his day's work in switching inter- and intrastate commerce, the employee is "engaged in interstate commerce." 88 N. J. L. 619, reversed.
THE case is stated in the opinion.
The experience of the organization [Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen] shows that more than 60 per cent. of all deaths and disabilities are caused by railroad accidents. W. S. Carter, Sen. Doc. 549, p. 137, 64th Cong. 1st sess.
Mr. George S. Hobart and Mr. Gilbert Collins for plaintiff in error.
Mr. Harry Lane for defendant in error.
MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the court.
This was a proceeding under a New Jersey statute, c. 95, Laws 1911, against a common carrier by railroad, engaged in both interstate and intrastate commerce, to obtain compensation for the death of one of its employees. The employee was in charge of a switch engine in the carrier's extensive yard at Croxton, New Jersey, and was switching freight cars about in the yard, especially to and from a transfer station. The cars usually contained package freight and many were moved in the course of a day's work. In some the freight was interstate, in others intrastate and in still others it was of both classes. This was true of the cars moved on the day in question. In concluding his work for that day the employee took his engine to the place where it was to remain for the night and started to leave the yard. His route lay across some of the tracks and while passing over one he was struck by an engine and received injuries from which he soon died. No causal negligence was alleged or proved and both parties assumed there was none. In these circumstances the trial judge, while not doubting that the fatal injury occurred in the course of the deceased's employment, held that he was not then employed in interstate commerce and that compensation should be made under the state statute to the widow. A judgment in her favor was entered, but was reversed by the Supreme Court of the State, which concluded that the deceased's employment at the time of the injury was in interstate commerce and that the case was controlled by the Employers' Liability Act