Pedersen v. Delaware, L. & W. R. Co., 229 U.S. 146 (1913)


U.S. Supreme Court

Pedersen v. Delaware, L. & W. R. Co., 229 U.S. 146 (1913)

Pedersen v. Delaware, Lackawanna

& Western Railroad Company

No. 698

Argued January 14, 1913

Decided May 26, 1913

229 U.S. 146


U.S. Supreme Court

Pedersen v. Delaware, L. & W. R. Co., 229 U.S. 146 (1913) Pedersen v. Delaware, Lackawanna

& Western Railroad Company

No. 698

Argued January 14, 1913

Decided May 26, 1913

229 U.S. 146




Under the Employers' Liability Act. a right of recovery exist only where the injury is suffered while the carrier is engaged in interstate commerce and while the employee is employed in such commerce, but it is not essential that the co-employee causing the injury be also employed in such commerce.

One engaged in the work of maintaining tracks, bridge, engines, or cars in proper condition after they have become and during their use as instrumentalities of interstate commerce is engaged in interstate commerce, and this even if those instrumentalities are used in both interstate and intrastate commerce.

One carrying materials to be used in repairing an instrumentality of interstate commerce is engaged in such commerce, and so held that a railroad employee carrying bolts to be used in repairing an interstate railroad and who was injured by an interstate train is entitled to sue under the Employers' Liability Act of 1908.

A federal court is without authority to reverse a judgment in favor of one party and direct a judgment in favor of the other non obstante veredicto. Slocum v. New York Life Ins. Co., 228 U. S. 364.

197 F. 537 reversed.

The facts, which involve the construction of the Employers' Liability Act of 1908 and the determination of what constitutes being engaged in interstate commerce, are stated in the opinion.

Page 229 U. S. 149

MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was an action under the Employers' Liability Act * of April 22, 1908, 35 Stat. 65, c. 149, to recover for personal injuries sustained by the plaintiff through the negligence of a co-employee while both were in the defendant's service. At the trial, the circuit court refused to direct a verdict in the defendant's favor, and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, assessing his damages at $6,190. Subsequently the court, following a local statute (Penn.Laws 1905, p. 286, c. 198), entered judgment for the defendant notwithstanding the verdict on the ground that the latter was not sustained by the evidence. 184 F. 737. The judgment was affirmed

Page 229 U. S. 150

by the circuit court of appeals, 197 F. 537, and the plaintiff sued out this writ of error.

The evidence, in that view of it which must be taken here, was to the following effect: the defendant was operating a railroad for the transportation of passengers and freight in interstate and intrastate commerce, and the plaintiff was an iron worker employed by the defendant in the alteration and repair of some of its bridges and tracks at or near Hoboken, New Jersey. On the afternoon of his injury, the plaintiff and another employee, acting under the direction of their foreman, were carrying from a tool car to a bridge, known as the Duffield bridge, some bolts or rivets which were to be used by them that night or very early the next morning in "repairing that bridge," the repair to consist in taking out an existing girder and inserting a new one. The bridge could be reached only by passing over an intervening temporary bridge at James Avenue. These bridges were being regularly used in both interstate and intrastate commerce. While the plaintiff was carrying a sack of bolts or rivets over the James Avenue bridge, on his way to the Duffield bridge, he was run down and injured by an intrastate passenger train, of the approach of which its engineer negligently failed to give any warning.

The circuit court ruled that an injury resulting from the negligence of a co-employee engaged in intrastate commerce was not within the terms of the federal act, and the circuit court of appeals, although disapproving that ruling, held that, under the evidence, it could not be said that the plaintiff was employed in interstate commerce, and therefore he was not entitled to recover under the act.

Considering the terms of the statute, there can be no doubt that a right of recovery thereunder arises only where the injury is suffered while the carrier is engaged in interstate commerce, and while the employee is employed by the carrier in such commerce; but it is not essential,

Page 229 U. S. 151

where the causal negligence is that of a co-employee, that he also be employed in such commerce, for, if the other conditions be present, the statute gives a right of recovery for injury or death resulting from the negligence "of any of the . . . employees of such carrier," and this includes an employee engaged in intrastate commerce. Second Employers' Liability cases, 223 U. S. 1, 223 U. S. 51.

That the defendant was engaged in interstate commerce is conceded, and so we are only concerned with the nature of the work in which the plaintiff was employed at the time of his injury. Among the questions which naturally arise in this connection are these: was that work being done independently of the interstate commerce in which the defendant was engaged, or was it so closely connected therewith as to be a part of it? Was its performance a matter of indifference so far as that commerce was concerned, or was it in the nature of a duty resting upon the carrier? The answers are obvious. Tracks and bridges are as indispensable to interstate commerce by railroad as are engines and cars, and sound economic reasons unite with settled rules of law in demanding that all of these instrumentalities be kept in repair. The security, expedition, and efficiency of the commerce depends in large measure upon this being done. Indeed, the statute now before us proceeds upon the theory that the carrier is charged with the duty of exercising appropriate care to prevent or correct "any defect or insufficiency . . . in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment" used in interstate commerce. But, independently of the statute, we are of opinion that the work of keeping such instrumentalities in a proper state of repair while thus used is so closely related to such commerce as to be in practice and in legal contemplation a part of it. The contention to the contrary proceeds upon the assumption that interstate commerce by railroad can

Page 229 U. S. 152

be separated into its several elements, and the nature of each determined regardless of its relation to others or to the business as a whole. But this is an erroneous assumption. The true test always is: is the work in question a part of the interstate commerce in which the carrier is engaged? See McCall v. California, 136 U. S. 104, 136 U. S. 109-111; Second Employers' Liability Cases, supra, 223 U. S. 6, 223 U. S. 59; Zikos v. Oregon R. & Navigation Co., 179 F. 893, 897-898; Central R. Co. v. Colasurdo, 192 F. 901; Darr v. Baltimore & O. R. Co., 197 F. 665; Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. Maerkl, 198 F. 1. Of course, we are not here concerned with the construction of tracks, bridges, engines, or cars which have not as yet become instrumentalities in such commerce, but only with the work of maintaining them in proper condition after they have become such instrumentalities and during their use as such.

True, a track or bridge may be used in both interstate and intrastate commerce, but when it is so used, it is nonetheless an instrumentality of the former; nor does its double use prevent the employment of those who are engaged in its repair or in keeping it in suitable condition for use from being an employment in interstate commerce.

The point is made that the plaintiff was not, at the time of his injury, engaged in removing the old girder and inserting the new one, but was merely carrying to the place where that work was to be done some of the materials to be used therein. We think there is no merit in this. It was necessary to the repair of the bridge that the materials be at hand, and the act of taking them there was a part of that work. In other words, it was a minor task which was essentially a part of the larger one, as is the case when an engineer takes his engine from the roundhouse to the track on which are the cars he is to haul in interstate commerce. See Lamphere v. Oregon

Page 229 U. S. 153

R. & Navigation Co., 196 F. 336; Horton v. Oregon &c. Co., 130 P. 897; Johnson v. Southern Pacific Co., 196 U. S. 1, 196 U. S. 21.

What has been said shows that there was evidence to sustain a finding that, at the time of the plaintiff's injury, the defendant was engaged, and he was employed by it, in interstate commerce, and as in other respects the case was one for the jury, the court rightly denied the defendant's request that a verdict in its favor be directed. A motion for a new trial was interposed by the defendant, but no ruling was had upon it, doubtless because the court concluded that it could and should render judgment for the defendant on the evidence notwithstanding the verdict. In this the court was in error, first, because it was without authority so to do (Slocum v. New York Life Insurance Co., 228 U. S. 364), and second because the evidence did not warrant such a judgment. Unless the motion for a new trial was well taken, judgment should have been given for the plaintiff on the verdict, and, subject to that qualification, the plaintiff is now entitled to such a judgment.

The judgments of the Circuit Court and the circuit court of appeals are reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

Judgment reversed.

* The act and the amendment of April 5, 1910, are printed in full in 223 U.S. p. 223 U. S. 6.

MR. JUSTICE LAMAR, dissenting:

I am unable to assent to the proposition that a man carrying bolts to be used by him in repairing a railroad bridge was employed in interstate commerce.

Transportation has been defined as commerce, and those engaged in transportation are employed in commerce. But, in building the bridge originally, the carrier was not "engaging in commerce between the states," and the plaintiff, in subsequently repairing it, was not

Page 229 U. S. 154

employed in such commerce. Such work was not a part of commerce, but an incident which preceded it.

The act provides that

"every common carrier by railroad, while engaging in commerce between any of the several states or territories . . . , shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce."

The defendant, though engaged in both interstate and intrastate commerce, was also engaged in many other incidental activities which were not commerce in any sense.

The railroad had to be surveyed and built, bridges had to be constructed and renewed, cars had to be manufactured and repaired, warehouses had to be built and painted, wages had to be paid and books kept; but these transactions, though incident to it, were not transportation, and therefore not within the purview of the statute limited to persons employed in commerce. Otherwise the law would embrace "all of the activities in any way connected with trade between the states, and exclude state control over matters purely domestic in their nature." Hooper v. California, 155 U. S. 655. Acts burdening interstate commerce can, of course, be prohibited by Congress. But when Congress itself limits the operation of the statute to persons injured while employed in interstate commerce, the statute does not extend to its incidents, and is confined to transportation. It does not include manufacturing, building, repairing, for they are not commerce, whether performed by a private person, a railroad, or its agents.

It is conceded that a line must be drawn between those employees of the carrier who are employed in commerce and those engaged in other departments of its business. It must be drawn so as to take in, on one side, those engaged in transportation, which is commerce; otherwise there is no logical reason why it should not include every

Page 229 U. S. 155

agent of the company; for there is no other test by which to determine when he must sue under the state statute and when under the Act of Congress, for if a man on his way to repair a bridge is engaged in interstate commerce, then the man in the shop who made the bolts to be used in repairing the bridge is likewise so engaged. If they are, then the man who paid them their wages and the bookkeeper who entered those payments in the accounts are similarly engaged. For they are all employed by the carrier, and the work of each contributes to its success in hauling freight and passengers.

This view is supported by the two cognate statutes. The hours of service law applies only to those "engaged in the movement of trains," and the safety appliance law refers not to machines in the shop, but to cars and locomotives, which are the immediate instruments of transportation. The Employers' Liability Act in like manner applies to those engaged in transportation, and not to those employed in building, manufacturing, or repairing.

The plaintiff was carrying bolts to be used in repairing a bridge. That was not interstate commerce, and in my opinion the court below properly held that his rights were to be determined by the laws of the State of New Jersey, and not by the Act of Congress.

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES and MR. JUSTICE LURTON concur in this dissent.