Urie v. Thompson
337 U.S. 163 (1949)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Urie v. Thompson, 337 U.S. 163 (1949)

Urie v. Thompson

No. 129

Argued January 3, 1949

Decided May 31, 1949

337 U.S. 163

Syllabus

1. The coverage of the Federal Employers' Liability Act and the Boiler Inspection Act is not confined to injuries resulting from accidents, but includes injuries in the nature of occupational diseases, such as silicosis. Pp. 337 U. S. 173-175, 337 U. S. 180-196.

(a) Negligence of an interstate railroad which results in a locomotive fireman's contracting silicosis as a result of inhaling silica dust gives rise to a cause of action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act independently of the Boiler Inspection Act. Pp. 337 U. S. 173-175, 180-187.

(b) Failure of an interstate railroad to maintain sanders on its locomotives in good condition, pursuant to provisions of the Boiler Inspection Act, is negligence per se, and gives rise to a cause of action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act in favor of a locomotive fireman who contracted silicosis from inhaling silica dust as a result of the malfunctioning of the sanders. Pp. 337 U. S. 187-195.

2. A complaint which sufficiently charged an interstate railroad with knowingly having used, in excessive quantities, a dangerous sand material likely to cause silicosis and in fact causing complainant to contract it and become permanently disabled, due in part to faulty adjustment of sanders and failure to use due care in adjusting them, was sufficient to state a cause of action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act independently of the Boiler Inspection Act. Pp. 337 U. S. 175-180.

3. The Boiler Inspection Act vests in the Interstate Commerce Commission rulemaking power adequate to protect employees against disease as well as against accidents, and injury resulting from violations of these rules is compensable under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. Pp. 337 U. S. 193-194.

4. That petitioner's contraction of silicosis resulted from the inhalation of silica dust over a period of thirty years and he may have had silicosis without knowing it for more than three years before he sued for compensation under the Federal Employers' Liability Act did not bar his claim when the time which elapsed between his discovery of his condition and the filing of suit did not exceed three years, the period of limitations then prescribed by that Act. Pp. 337 U. S. 168-171.

Page 337 U. S. 164

5. Petitioner sued for compensation under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, alleging that he had contracted silicosis as a result of the railroad's negligence and without claiming any violation of the Boiler Inspection Act. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the complaint. The State Supreme Court held that the allegations of negligence were not sufficient to sustain the action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act alone, but it remanded the case for trial because it thought that the complaint sufficiently alleged a breach of the Boiler Inspection Act. Petitioner amended his complaint to charge specifically violations of the Boiler Inspection Act; the jury found in his favor, and he obtained a judgment. On a second appeal, the State Supreme Court reversed this judgment on the ground that the Boiler Inspection Act applies only to accidental injuries, and not to occupational diseases.

Held:

(a) Although the question was neither raised nor considered on the second appeal to the State Supreme Court, the sufficiency of petitioner's original claim for negligence involved in the first appeal is reviewable here, since the first judgment of the State Supreme Court was not a final judgment. Pp. 337 U. S. 171-172.

(b) Complainant did not waive that question by amending his complaint to state a claim specifically under the Boiler Inspection Act or by proceeding with trial on that theory. P. 337 U. S. 172.

6. Local rules of practice cannot bar this Court's independent consideration of all substantial federal questions actually determined in earlier stages of litigation by a state court whose final adjudication is brought here for review. Pp. 337 U. S. 172-173.

A state trial court sustained a demurrer to a complaint seeking recovery under the Federal Employers' Liability Act for injuries incurred by contracting silicosis as a result of a railroad's negligence. The State Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for trial, holding that the complaint was sufficient to allege a breach of the Boiler Inspection Act. 352 Mo. 211, 176 S.W.2d 471. After amending his complaint so as to allege specifically a violation of the Boiler Inspection Act, complainant obtained a judgment in the trial court. On a second appeal, the State Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Boiler Inspection Act was inapplicable to injuries

Page 337 U. S. 165

sustained except through accidents. 357 Mo. 738, 210 S.W.2d 98. This Court granted certiorari. 335 U.S. 809. Reversed, p. 337 U. S. 196.

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