Troxell v. Delaware, L. & W. R. Co.
Annotate this Case
227 U.S. 434 (1913)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Troxell v. Delaware, L. & W. R. Co., 227 U.S. 434 (1913)
Troxell v. Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company
Argued January 14, 1913
Decided February 24, 1913
227 U.S. 434
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Where the second suit is upon the same cause of action set up in the first suit, an estoppel by judgment arises in respect to every matter offered or received in evidence or which might have been offered to sustain or defeat the claim in controversy; but where the second suit is upon a different claim or demand, the prior judgment operates as an estoppel only as to matters in issue or points controverted and actually determined in the original suit.
To work an estoppel, the first proceeding and judgment must be a bar to the second one because it is a matter already adjudicated between the parties, and there must be identity of parties in the two actions.
A suit for damages for causing death brought by the widow and surviving children of the deceased under the state law is not on the same cause of action as one subsequently brought by the widow as administratrix against the same defendant under the Employers' Liability Act, and the judgment dismissing the complaint in the first action is not a bar as res judicata to the second suit.
After a plea of res judicata has been filed and considered and the case
tried, it is too late for defendant to raise the objection in this Court for the first time that the case was not at issue and should not have been tried until after plaintiff had filed a replication to the plea.
200 F. 44 reversed.
The facts, which involve the construction of the Employers' Liability Acts of 1906 and 1908 and the validity of a judgment recovered thereunder, are stated in the opinion.
MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case was brought in the circuit court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, as amended (35 Stat. 65, c. 149; 36 Stat. 291, c. 143), by Lizzie M. Troxell, administratrix of the estate of Joseph Daniel Troxell, deceased, against the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company, to recover for the alleged wrongful death of decedent. A verdict was rendered by the district court, which had succeeded the circuit court, in favor of the plaintiff, and judgment entered accordingly, which, on writ of error, was reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 200 F. 44. The case was then brought here upon writ of error.
It appears from the record that the defendant railroad company operates a line of road running from Nazareth to Portland, Pennsylvania, and that a branch road, known as the Pen Argyl Branch, puts off in a northeasterly direction from Pen Argyl Junction, a point on the defendant's line. Between 100 and 150 yards northeast of Pen Argyl Junction there is a switch running off the Pen Argyl Branch, called Albion Siding No. 2, which extends to certain quarries in that vicinity. The switch track is level, or practically so, for the first 100 feet, and then rises towards the northeast with a grade of 1 foot in 100 feet. From the place where the Albion switch connects with the Pen Argyl Branch down to the main track, and then westward on the main track, there is a down grade. Six gondola cars, each about 36 feet in length, loaded with ashes, had been placed on the Albion spur by the
train crew of which Troxell was the fireman, he at that particular time acting as engineer, two days before the happening of the injury hereinafter described. The night before the injury, the yard shifter and crew had moved the cars a considerable distance further on the spur from the junction of the siding with the branch and on the up grade. The next morning at about half-past 7 o'clock, these cars were seen to be running rapidly down grade toward the point where the collision occurred. The decedent, Troxell, then engaged as fireman in propelling a train eastwardly, consisting in part of interstate cars and freight, was at the time, working on the tender of the engine, and when the runaway cars, going at great speed, collided with the locomotive, he was buried under the wreck and killed.
Lizzie M. Troxell (now the administratrix of his estate) brought a previous action, suing as surviving widow, and joining the two living children, against the defendant railroad company for damages, stating that at the time of the injury, July 21, 1909, the deceased was engaged in the capacity of fireman on a locomotive hauling one of the defendant's trains in interstate and foreign commerce, and that, while so engaged, without fault on his part, and because of the negligence of defendant, and its failure to supply and keep in good condition proper and safe devices, instruments, and apparatus, the locomotive and train came into violent collision with several runaway cars, resulting in the death of Troxell, and she prayed damages on account of herself and the children. She recovered a verdict, and judgment was rendered in her favor, which, upon writ of error, was reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 183 F. 373.
Thereafter, having been appointed administratrix of the estate of her husband, Lizzie M. Troxell began the present action in the circuit court of the United States.
This action was specifically brought under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. The petition charged that the defendant was a common carrier engaged in interstate transportation; that Troxell, deceased, was a fireman, engaged in that capacity upon a locomotive and train engaged in carrying interstate and foreign commerce, and charged that, because of the negligence, carelessness, and oversight of the defendant, and its failure to supply and keep in good condition proper, necessary, and safe devices, instruments, and appliances, the locomotive and train came into violent collision with several loose and runaway cars, causing Troxell's death, and the plaintiff, administratrix, as aforesaid, prayed damages, setting forth that she was the widow of the decedent, and that there were two minor children of the parties. The case was tried to a jury, and again resulted in a verdict and judgment in the district court, successor to the circuit court, in favor of the administratrix. Upon writ of error, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the judgment, holding that the first proceeding and judgment was a bar to a recovery in the second action.
Where the second suit is upon the same cause of action set up in the first suit, an estoppel by judgment arises in respect to every matter offered or received in evidence, or which might have been offered, to sustain or defeat the claim in controversy; but, where the second suit is upon a different claim or demand, the prior judgment operates as an estoppel only as to matters in issue or points controverted and actually determined in the original suit. Cromwell v. Sac County, 94 U. S. 351-353; Southern Pacific Railroad Co. v. United States, 168 U. S. 1, 168 U. S. 50; Virginia-Carolina Chemical Co. v. Kirven, 215 U. S. 252, 215 U. S. 257.
An inspection of the record shows that, upon the trial of the first action, the judge of the district court held that the Employers' Liability Act prevented Lizzie M. Troxell
from maintaining the suit in her individual capacity for herself and children, and that the federal act should not be considered in determining the case, and that it was brought under the statutes of the State of Pennsylvania, authorizing a widow to bring suit for herself and children, not as administratrix, but in her individual capacity, to recover damages for the death of the decedent. In such an action, there could be no recovery because of the negligence of the fellow workmen of Troxell. The record shows that in the first action the trial court held that no question of the negligence of the fellow servants was submitted, and the jury was confined to the question of responsibility for failing to provide proper safety appliances to prevent the cars from running down the grade in the manner in which they did, if left unbraked, or on becoming unbraked on the siding. The circuit court of appeals, in reversing the case, distinctly stated that, in its view, the case might be brought under the state act, notwithstanding the Employers' Liability Act, and reached the conclusion that the judgment below should be reversed.
The second action was brought under the Federal Liability Act, under which there might be a recovery for the negligence of the fellow servants of the deceased, and the judgment of the district court, holding that the former case had adjudicated matters as to defects in cars, engines, and rails, submitted to the jury only the question of the negligence of fellow servants in failing to properly brake and block the cars on the siding. Upon the issue thus submitted, a verdict was rendered and recovery had in the trial court, as we have already said.
In the circuit court of appeals, however, it was held that the judgment in the first case was a bar to the second proceeding, because, in view of the decision of this Court in Second Employers' Liability Cases, 223 U. S. 1, an action of this kind for injury to one engaged in interstate commerce could only be maintained under the Federal Employers'
Liability Act, and that, although the plaintiff undertook in the first action to abandon the charge as to the negligence of fellow servants, and relied only on the want of a proper derailing switch on Albion Siding No. 2, nevertheless the first judgment was a bar because, in the second action, she was merely offering to prove additional facts which might have been proved in the first trial.
We think it is apparent from what we have said that the first case was prosecuted and tried upon the theory that it involved a cause of action under the state law of Pennsylvania. It was so submitted to the jury, and they were told that they were not to consider the federal law, but recovery should be based upon the right under the state act. If the circuit court of appeals was right in its second decision that no action could have been maintained under the state law in view of the Employers' Liability Act, the fact that the plaintiff attempted to recover under that law, and pursued the supposed remedy until the court adjudged that it never had existed would not, of itself, preclude the subsequent pursuit of a remedy for relief to which in law she is entitled. William W. Bierce, Limited v. Hutchins, 205 U. S. 340; Snow v. Alley, 156 Mass.193, 195; Water, Light & Gas Co. v. Hutchinson, 160 F. 41. Whether the plaintiff could properly have thus recovered is not the question now before the court. To work an estoppel, the first proceeding and judgment must be a bar to the second one, because it is a matter already adjudicated between the parties. The cause of action under the state law, if it could be prosecuted to recover for the wrongful death alleged in this case, was based upon a different theory of the right to recover than prevails under the federal statute. Under the Pennsylvania law, there could be no recovery for the negligence of the fellow servants of the deceased. This was the issue upon which the case was submitted at the second trial
and a recovery had. Whether the plaintiff could recover under the Pennsylvania statute was not involved in the second action, and the plaintiff's right to recover because of the injury by the negligence of the fellow servants was not involved in or concluded by the first suit.
Furthermore, it is well settled that, to work an estoppel by judgment, there must have been identity of parties in the two actions. Brown v. Fletcher, 210 U. S. 82; Ingersoll v. Coram, 211 U. S. 335. The circuit court of appeals in the present case, while recognizing this rule, disposed of the contention upon the ground that the parties were essentially the same in both actions (the first action was for the benefit of Lizzie M. Troxell and the two minor children, and the present case, although the action was brought by the administratrix, is for the benefit of herself and children), and held that, except in mere form, the actions were for the benefit of the same persons, and therefore the parties were practically the same, and that the omission to sue as administratrix was merely technical, and would have been curable by amendment. This conclusion was reached before this Court announced its decision in American R. Co. v. Birch, 224 U. S. 547. That action was brought under the Federal Employers' Liability Act by the widow and son of the decedent, and not by the administrator. The lower court held that the requirement of the act that the suit should be brought in case of death by the personal representative of the deceased did not prevent a suit in the name of the persons entitled to the benefit of the recovery. In other words, the court ruled, as did the circuit court of appeals in this case, that, where it was shown that the widow and child were the sole beneficiaries, they might maintain the action without the appointment of a personal representative. This Court denied the contention, and held that Congress, doubtless for good reasons, had specifically provided
that an action under the Employers' Liability Act could be brought only by the personal representative, and the judgment was reversed without prejudice to the rights of such personal representative. We think that, under the ruling in the Birch case, there was not that identity of parties in the former action by the widow and the present case, properly brought by the administrator under the Employers' Liability Act which renders the former suit and judgment a bar to the present action.
It is further urged that, even if this Court should hold that the sole ground upon which the circuit court of appeals proceeded, namely, that the former judgment is a bar to this action, was untenable, nevertheless the judgment of the district court ought not to be affirmed because there is no testimony in the record adequate to sustain the verdict and judgment of that court. The case in the appellate court must be determined not by considering and weighing conflicting testimony, but upon a decision of the question as to the presence of testimony in the record fairly tending to sustain the verdict. An examination of the record satisfies us that the district judge in his charge fairly stated the conflicting testimony adduced as to the negligence of the fellow servants in securing and blocking the cars on the siding, and that there was testimony to sustain the verdict of the jury adverse to the defendant. It is also contended that certain testimony was inadmissible. We have examined this assignment, and, without going into detail, find that it, too, must be denied. It is also urged that the record shows that the case when tried was not at issue, at least, under the rules of the lower court, was not triable until after issue joined, and this objection is set up because of the failure of the plaintiff to file a replication after the court had decided that the plea of res judicata was a correct plea under the local practice. The case was at issue, and the plea of res judicata was considered and decided in both
courts, and it is too late to make a technical objection of that character in this Court.
Judgment of the circuit court of appeals reversed, and that of the district court affirmed, and the case remanded to the district court.
Upon the issue of res judicata, MR. JUSTICE LURTON concurs solely because of the lack of identity of the parties in the two actions.