Martin v. Pittsburgh & Lake Erie R. Co.
203 U.S. 284 (1906)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Martin v. Pittsburgh & Lake Erie R. Co., 203 U.S. 284 (1906)

Martin v. Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Company

No. 6

Argued October 26, 29, 1906

Decided December 3, 1906

203 U.S. 284

Syllabus

In the absence of action by Congress, a state may by statute determine and either augment or lessen a carrier's liability, and such a statute limiting the right of recovery of certain classes of persons does not deprive a person injured thereafter of a vested right of property. Pennsylvania Railroad Co. v. Hughes,191 U. S. 477.

Although a citizen of the United States has a right to travel from one state to another, in the absence of Congressional action, he does not possess as an incident of such travel the right to exert in a state in which he may be injured a right of recovery not given by the laws thereof, although that right may be given by the laws of other states, including the one in which suit is brought. A classification with a railroad company's employees of all persons, including railway postal clerks, not passengers, but so employed in and about the railroad as to be subject to greater peril than passengers, is not so arbitrary as to deprive the railway postal clerk of the equal protection of the laws within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Pennsylvania statute of April 4, 1868, P.L. 58, providing that any person, not a passenger, employed in and about a railroad but not an employee, shall in case of injury or loss of life have only the same right of recovery as though he were an employee is not void either because contrary to the power delegated to Congress to establish post offices and post roads, or because repugnant to the commerce clause of the Constitution, or in conflict with the due process or equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, or because it abridges the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States.

Whether a railway postal clerk is a passenger or whether his right of recovery is limited by such statute is not a federal question.

72 Ohio St. 659 affirmed.

Reuben L. Martin brought this action to recover compensation for personal injuries. At the time Martin was injured, he was on a train of the railroad company, in the employ of the United States as a railway postal clerk on a route extending from Cleveland, Ohio, to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The

Page 203 U. S. 285

injuries arose from the derailing in Pennsylvania of the train by the negligence of the crew of a work train in permitting a switch leading to a side track to be open. Among other defenses, the company pleaded a law of Pennsylvania passed April 4, 1868 (P.L. 58), which, it alleged, was applicable, and relieved from responsibility. In reply, the plaintiff denied the existence and applicability of the statute, moreover, and defended on the ground that the statute, if existing and applicable, was void, first because contrary to the power delegated to Congress to establish post offices and post roads; second, because repugnant to the commerce clause of the Constitution; and third because in conflict with the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and also the clause prohibiting a state from making or enforcing any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.

On trial before a jury, the court held the statute in question to be applicable and valid, and hence operative to defeat a recovery. A verdict and judgment in favor of the railroad company was severally affirmed by the circuit court and by the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio.

Page 203 U. S. 291

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