St. Louis, I.M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Taylor - 210 U.S. 281 (1908)


U.S. Supreme Court

St. Louis, I.M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Taylor, 210 U.S. 281 (1908)

St. Louis, Iron Mountain and

Southern Railway Company v. Taylor

No. 201

Argued April 14, 1908

Decided May 18, 1908

210 U.S. 281

Syllabus

Each state may, subject to restriction of the federal Constitution, determine the limit of the jurisdiction of its courts, and the decision of the highest court sustaining jurisdiction although the cause of action arose outside the border of the state is final, and does not present a federal question.

The provision in § 5 of the Safety Appliance Act of March 2, 1893, 27 Stat. 531, referring it to the American Railway Association and the Interstate Commerce Commission to designate and promulgate the standard height and maximum variation of drawbars for freight cars is not unconstitutional as a delegation of legislative power. Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U. S. 470.

Under the Safety Appliance Act of 1893, 27 Stat. 531, the center of the drawbars of freight cars used on standard gauges shall be, when the cars are empty, thirty-four and a half inches above the rails, and the statute permits, when a car is loaded or partly loaded, a maximum variation in the height downwards of three inches. The statute does not require that the variation shall be proportioned to the load, or that a fully loaded car shall exhaust the entire variation.

An instruction that, under the statute, the drawbars of fully loaded freight cars must be of a uniform height of thirty-one and a half inches and that a variation between two loaded cars' constitutes negligence under the statute is prejudicial error.

Although the constitutional grant of power to this Court to review judgements of the state courts may be wider than the statutory grant in 709, Rev.Stat., the jurisdiction of the court extends only to the cases enumerated in that section.

The denial by the state court to give to a federal statute the construction insisted upon by a party which would lead to a judgment in his favor is a denial of a right or immunity under the laws of the United States and presents a federal question reviewable by this Court under § 709, Rev.Stat.

It is only by reviewing in this Court the construction given by the state courts to federal statutes that a uniform construction of such statutes throughout all the states can be secured.

The Safety Appliance Act of March 2, 1893, 27 Stat. 531, supplants the common law rule of reasonable care on the part of the employer as to providing the appliances defined and specified therein, and imposes upon

Page 210 U. S. 282

interstate carriers an absolute duty, and the common law rule of reasonable care is not a defense where, in point of fact, the cars used were not equipped with appliances complying with the standards established by the act.

The courts have no responsibility for the justice or wisdom of legislation. They must enforce the statute, unless clearly unconstitutional, as it is written, and when Congress has prescribed by statute a duty upon a carrier, the courts cannot avoid a true construction thereof simply because such construction is a harsh one.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 210 U. S. 284



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