Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Humble
181 U.S. 57 (1901)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Humble, 181 U.S. 57 (1901)

Texas & Pacific Railway Company v. Humble

No. 177

Argued March 7-8, 1901

Decided April 8, 1901

181 U.S. 57

Syllabus

Where a married woman had resided in Arkansas for many years, and, just as she was leaving the state to join her husband, who had taken up his residence in Louisiana, was injured through the alleged negligence of the defendant railway company, and brought an action to recover damages in a state court in Arkansas, which, on the application of the company, was removed into the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Arkansas, the rule of decision was the law of Arkansas, the place of the wrong, and of the forum, and not the law of Louisiana.

By the law of Arkansas, plaintiff was entitled to bring the action in her own name and without joining her husband. And if her husband should subsequently bring suit in Louisiana on the same cause of action, it is not to be assumed that the courts of that state would not recognize the binding force of the judgment in Arkansas.

By the legislation of Arkansas, the earnings of a married woman arising from labor or services done and performed on her sole account are her separate property, and although the statutes may not have deprived the husband of the services of the wife in the household, in the care of the family, or in and about his business, they have bestowed on her, independently of him, her earnings on her own account, and given her authority to acquire them.

As the evidence in this case tended to show that plaintiff for some years had been carrying on business on her own account, which had been suspended by reason of temporary illness for a short time just previous to the accident, the circuit court did not commit reversible error in instructing the jury that, if they found for the plaintiff, they might take into consideration in assessing her damages, among other things, her age and earning capacity before and after the injury was received, as shown by the proofs.

On this record, the earning capacity referred to presumably had relation to earnings on plaintiff's own account, and if defendant wished this made more explicit, it should have so requested.

This was an action brought by Emma Humble against the Texas & Pacific Railway Company in the Circuit Court of Miller County, Arkansas, to recover compensation for personal injuries sustained by her in the defendant's station at Texarkana, Arkansas, on April 9, 1898, by reason of defendant's negligence, and removed on defendant's petition to the

Page 181 U. S. 58

United States Circuit Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Plaintiff obtained judgment, which was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 97 F. 837, and thereupon this writ of error was sued out.

The evidence, in addition to establishing the circumstances of the infliction of the injury, tended to show that Mrs. Humble had been a resident of Arkansas for nearly ten years; that she had kept a boarding house and a hotel at Pine Bluff, in said state, for some years, conducted by her as her sole and separate business and in her name, until she left Pine, Bluff for Texarkana, in October, 1897, where she remained until April 9, 1898, and during this time began to run a hotel, but became temporarily ill, and gave it up. Her husband had taken up his residence in Louisiana at the time of the injury, and she had then started to go to him.

Prior to the trial, the railway company moved the court to compel Mrs. Humble to make her husband a party plaintiff, but the court overruled the motion, and defendant excepted. Defendant objected to all evidence tending to show that plaintiff's capacity to labor was diminished by the injury, and saved an exception to its admission.

At the close of the evidence, defendant requested the court to give the jury certain instructions, of which the third, fourth, sixth, and seventh are as follows:

"3. The plaintiff cannot recover any damages on account of her injury diminishing her capacity to labor and earn money, because there is no evidence showing any capacity to labor or earn money at and just before she was injured."

"4. In this case, the plaintiff being a married woman and her husband not joining in the suit, she cannot recover any damages on account of her diminished capacity to labor and earn money."

"6. The plaintiff being a married woman, and her husband not having joined her in this suit, and she and her husband having her present and prospective home in the State of Louisiana, then the law of Louisiana would apply as to the right to recover damages by reason of the fact that plaintiff's capacity to labor in future has been lessened by the injury, and by the law of that state, she cannot recover such damages. "

Page 181 U. S. 59

"You will therefore allow nothing as damages for any diminished capacity to labor and earn money."

"7. Plaintiff cannot recover anything on account of her diminished capacity to labor."

"Because there is neither pleading nor evidence showing that plaintiff was engaged in any business, profession, or occupation."

"And her lessened capacity to perform household duties cannot be the basis of plaintiff's recovery."

The court declined to give these instructions, and each of them, and the defendant excepted to the refusal of each.

The court instructed the jury as follows:

"If you should find for the plaintiff, in assessing her damages, you will take into consideration her age and earning capacity before and after the injury was received, as shown by the proofs, her physical condition before the injury, and her physical condition after the injury, and the nature and character of the injury she received, whether it be permanent or temporary in its nature, and find for her such sum as will fairly and reasonably compensate her therefor, including therein fair and reasonable compensation for any physical and personal pain and suffering she may have undergone as the result thereof."

Defendant excepted to so much of this portion of the charge as allowed the jury to "take into consideration her age and earning capacity before and after the injury was received as shown by the proofs."

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