Camden & Suburban Railway Co. v. Stetson - 177 U.S. 172 (1900)
U.S. Supreme Court
Camden & Suburban Railway Co. v. Stetson, 177 U.S. 172 (1900)
Camden and Suburban Railway Company v. Stetson
Argued March 6, 1900
Decided April 9, 1900
177 U.S. 172
This was an action brought in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey against a railway company for an alleged injury to the plaintiff caused by the neglect of the railway company while the plaintiff was a passenger on one of its cars. Held that that court had the legal right or power, under the statute of New Jersey and the United States Revised Statutes, to order a surgical examination of the plaintiff.
This case comes here upon a certificate from the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, under the act of 1891, chapter 517, § 6, 26 Stat. 826. The action was brought in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey by the plaintiff against the railway company to recover damages for an alleged injury to his person caused by the neglect of the defendant while the plaintiff was a passenger on one of defendant's cars. At the time that he brought suit, plaintiff was a citizen of the State of Pennsylvania, the railway company being a corporation of the State of New Jersey. The alleged neglect and injury occurred on the 13th day of July, 1896, in the City of Camden, in the State of New Jersey, and at that time the plaintiff was a citizen of that state.
On the 12th of May, 1896, the Legislature of New Jersey passed and the governor approved an act which reads as follows:
"1. On or before the trial of any action brought to recover damages for injury to the person, the court before whom such action is pending may, from time to time, on application of any party therein, order and direct an examination of the person injured, as to the injury complained of, by a competent physician or physicians, surgeon or surgeons, in order to qualify the person or persons making such examination, to testify in the said cause
as to the nature, extent, and probable duration of the injury complained of, and the court may in such order direct and determine the time and place of such examination; provided, this act shall not be construed to prevent any other person or physician from being called and examined as a witness as heretofore."
When the case was called for trial on March 31, 1898, and after a jury had been impaneled, but before the case was opened to the jury, the defendant's counsel asked in open court that the plaintiff should submit himself to examination by a competent surgeon. The plaintiff would not consent, and the court held that it had no power to order the plaintiff to subject himself to examination by physicians against his will, and it therefore refused to make the order asked for by counsel for the defendant, who was thereupon allowed an exception to the ruling. The trial proceeded and resulted in a verdict and judgment for the plaintiff. The defendant brought the case by writ of error before the circuit court of appeals, and that court, desiring the instruction of this Court upon the matter, made the foregoing statement and ordered the following questions to be certified here:
"1. Is the above-recited statute of the State of New Jersey, the Act of May 12, 1896, applicable to an action to recover damages for injury to the person brought and tried in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey?"
"2. Is said statute applicable to an action to recover damages for injury to the person brought and tried in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey, where the injury occurred in the State of New Jersey, and both the plaintiff and the defendant at the time of the injury were citizens of that state?"
"3. Had the circuit court the legal right or power to order a surgical examination of the plaintiff? "