Where the plaintiffs in an action under the Employers' Liability
Act are the sole beneficiaries under the statute, a general verdict
in their favor, without instructions on this point, overcomes the
objection of lack of capacity to sue.
Page 227 U. S. 146
The Employers' Liability Act extends to Porto Rico, as held in
American Railroad Co. v. Birch, 224 U.
, and now held
that the Safety Appliance
Act also extends to Porto Rico.
While Porto Rico has not for all purposes been fully
incorporated into the United States, it is not foreign territory,
nor are its citizens aliens. Williams v. Gonzales,
192 U. S. 1
organization is in most essentials that of a territory. Kopel
v. Bingham, 211 U. S. 468
In view of the provisions of § 3 thereof, effect cannot be given
to the Employers' Liability Act of 1908 in Porto Rico unless the
Safety Appliance Act referred to in § 3 are in force there
Under the Employers' Liability Act of 1908, pecuniary damages
only are recoverable, and these do not include loss of society or
companionship of a son to a parent. Michigan Central Railroad
v. Vreeland, ante,
U. S. 59
5 P.R. 401, 427 reversed.
The facts, which involve the construction of the Employers'
Liability Act of 1908 before its amendment by the Act of 1910, and
the application of the act to Porto Rico, are stated in the
MR. JUSTICE LURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is an action under the Employers' Liability Act of April
22, 1908 (35 Stat. 65, c. 149), before its amendment by the Act of
April 5, 1910, 36 Stat. 291, c. 143. The plaintiffs were the
surviving parents of Pedro Didricksen, an employee of the American
Railroad of Porto Rico, who died from an injury sustained while in
1. Many errors have been assigned. One assigned, but not noticed
in the brief of plaintiff in error, goes to the capacity of the
plaintiffs to maintain the action.
Page 227 U. S. 147
That the deceased left neither wife nor children is not denied.
That the plaintiffs were therefore, as his surviving parents, the
sole beneficiaries under the statute is also conceded.
One of the defenses made by the answer was that the plaintiffs
had not been appointed administrators, as required by law, and had
therefore no right to maintain this suit under the liability Act of
1908. This was met, after the jury had been summoned, by a motion,
as shown by the plaintiffs' bill of exceptions,
"to amend the complaint by making the following interlineation:
'That plaintiffs are the duly appointed personal representatives of
the deceased, appointed by the district court of the Island of
Porto Rico,' which leave is granted by the court."
To this amendment the defendant excepted. A journal entry of the
same date shows that, in support of the motion, the plaintiffs
produced a certain certificate from the district court of Porto
Rico, and that the complaint was amended by interlining the words,
after the word "support," -- "they were further the only personal
representatives of the deceased."
This certificate is not in the transcript, and we have no way of
knowing its sufficiency as an appointment. The case went to the
jury upon the issue of the capacity of the plaintiffs to sue, as
well as upon the other issues. The court neither gave nor refused
any instruction upon this point, and there was a general verdict
for the plaintiffs.
2. The evidence upon the merits of the case, though obscure and
meager as to the circumstances of the accident, was such as to
justify its submission to the jury.
3. The complaint averred that the cars composing the train in
charge of the deceased as conductor were not equipped as required
by the Safety Appliance Act of March 2, 1903, 32 Stat. 943, c. 976.
There was some evidence tending to show that one or more of the
couplers were not in repair, and some evidence tending
Page 227 U. S. 148
to show that this had a causal connection with the accident. The
court instructed the jury that the Safety Appliance Act applied to
Porto Rico. Was this error?
The Acts of March 2, 1893, 27 Stat. 531, c. 196, and April 1,
1896, 29 Stat. 85, c. 87, related only to railroad companies
engaged in interstate commerce. The traffic wholly confined to a
territory of the United States was therefore not within either. But
the Act of March 2, 1903, amended the former acts and extended
their provisions to "common carriers by railroad in the territories
and the District of Columbia."
That the Employers' Liability Act of April 22, 1908, 35 Stat.
65, c. 149, does apply to Porto Rico is plain, since it, on its
face, extends to the District of Columbia, the territories, the
Panama Canal Zone, and other "possessions" of the United States.
That it did extend to Porto Rico was expressly decided in
American Railroad Company of Porto Rico v. Birch,
224 U. S. 547
question as to whether the safety appliance act extended to that
Island was reserved in the Birch
We are of opinion that the act does extend to Porto Rico. It is
true that the term, "possessions" of the United States is not used
as in the Liability Act. The act does, however, provide that the
former acts of which it is amendatory "shall be held to apply to
common carriers by railroad in the territories and the District of
Columbia," etc. Though, for all purposes, the Island of Porto Rico
has not been fully incorporated into the United States, it
obviously is not foreign territory, nor its citizens aliens.
Gonzales v. Williams, 192 U. S. 1
192 U. S. 15
organization is in most essentials that of those political entities
known as territories. It has a territorial legislature and a
territorial system of courts. By the fourteenth section of the
Foraker Act of 1900, 31 Stat. 80, c. 191,
"the statutory laws of the United States not locally
inapplicable . . . have the same
Page 227 U. S. 149
force and effort in Porto Rico as in the United States, except
the internal revenue laws."
In Kopel v. Bingham, 211 U. S. 468
Porto Rico was held to be a territory within the meaning of § 5278,
Revised Statutes, providing for the surrender of fugitive criminals
by governors of territories.
It is not easy to see how effect can be given to the Employers'
Liability Act of 1908 in Porto Rico without concluding that this
Act of 1903 is also in force there, since the former, as pointed
out in the Birch
case, 224 U. S. 555
provides in its third section
"that no such employee who may be injured or killed shall be
held to have been guilty of contributory negligence in any case
where the violation by such common carrier of any statute enacted
for the safety of employees contributed to the injury or
The fourth section contains a like provision concerning
assumption of risk.
These considerations lead to the conclusion that the court below
did not err in ruling that the act extended to Porto Rico.
4. There was error in the rule for measuring the damages
The cause of action which was created in behalf of the injured
employee did not survive his death, nor pass to his
representatives. But the act, in case of the death of such an
employee from his injury, creates a new and distinct right of
action for the benefit of the dependent relatives named in the
statute. The damages recoverable are limited to such loss as
results to them because they have been deprived of a reasonable
expectation of pecuniary benefits by the wrongful death of the
injured employee. The damage is limited strictly to the financial
loss thus sustained. The court below went beyond this limitation by
charging the jury that they might, in estimating the damages,
"take into consideration the fact that they are the father and
mother of deceased, and the fact that
Page 227 U. S. 150
they are deprived of his society and any care and consideration
he might take of them or have for them during his life."
The loss of the society or companionship of a son is a
deprivation not to be measured by any money standard. It is not a
pecuniary loss under such a statute as this.
Laying out of consideration the indefiniteness of the term "care
and consideration" as elements in addition to the loss and damage
of such pecuniary assistance as the parents of the decedent might
have reasonably anticipated from their son, it is enough for the
purpose of this case to say that there was no allegation of any
such loss, nor any evidence relating to the subject, or from which
its pecuniary value might have been estimated. The scope of the
compensation recoverable under this statute has been so fully
considered in Michigan Central Railroad v. Vreeland, ante,
p. 227 U. S. 59
we need not say more.
The other assignments of error we pass by without decision. None
of them are of either general importance or such as are likely to
arise upon a new trial.
Reversed and remanded for a new trial.
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES concurs in the result.