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PITNEY, J., dissenting.
tween two ports located within the same State, Wilmington Transportation Co. v. California Railroad Commission, 236 U. S. 151, 156.
In each of these cases, except the last, which related to intrastate transport, the state regulation had an incidental effect upon the very conduct of navigation in interstate or foreign commerce. If in such cases the States possess the power of regulation in the absence of inconsistent action by Congress, much more clearly do they possess that power where Congress is silent, with respect to a liability which arises but casually, through the accidental injury or death of an employee engaged in a maritime occupation.
Indeed, with respect to injuries that result in death, it already is settled that although the general maritime law, like the common law, afforded no civil remedy for death by wrongful act (The Harrisburg, 119 U. S. 199; The Alaska, 130 U. S. 201, 209), yet a right of action created by statute is enforceable in a state court although the tort was committed upon navigable water (Steamboat Co. v. Chase, 16 Wall. 522, 533; Sherlock v. Alling, 93 U. S. 99, 104), and the liability arising out of a state statute in such a case will be recognized and enforced in the admiralty (The Hamilton, 207 U. S. 398), although not by proceeding in rem unless the statute expressly creates a lien (The Corsair, 145 U. S. 335, 347).
In Sherlock v. Alling, supra, which was an action in a state court and based upon a state statute to recover damages for a death by wrongful act occurring in interstate navigation, it was contended that the statute could not be applied to cases where the injury was caused by a marine tort, without interfering with the exclusive regulation of commerce vested in Congress. The court, after declaring that any regulation by Congress, or the liability for its infringement, would be exclusive of state authority, proceeded to say, by Mr. Justice Field (93 U. S. 104): “But with reference to a great variety of matters touching the
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
rights and liabilities of persons engaged in commerce, either as owners or navigators of vessels, the laws of Congress are silent, and the laws of the State govern. The rules for the acquisition of property by persons engaged in navigation, and for its transfer and descent, are, with some exceptions, those prescribed by the State to which the vessels belong;'and it may be said, generally, that the legislation of a State, not directed against commerce or any of its regulations, but relating to the rights, duties, and liabilities of citizens, and only indirectly and remotely affecting the operations of commerce, is of obligatory force upon citizens within its territorial jurisdiction, whether on land or water, or engaged in commerce, foreign or interstate, or in any other pursuit. In our judgment, the statute of Indiana falls under this class. Until Congress, therefore, makes some regulation touching the liability of parties for marine torts resulting in the death of the persons injured, we are of opinion that the statute of Indiana applies,” etc.
I deem The Hamilton, supra, to be a controlling authority upon the question now presented. It was there held, not only that the constitutional grant of admiralty jurisdiction, followed and construed by the Judiciary Act of 1789, leaves open the common-law jurisdiction of the state courts over torts committed at sea, but also that it leaves the States at liberty to change the law respecting such torts by legislation, as by a statute creating a liability for death by wrongful act, which was the particular legislation there in question.
To what extent uniformity of decision should result from the grant of jurisdiction to the courts of the United States concurrent with that of the state courts, is a subject that repeatedly has been under consideration in this court, but it never has been held that the jurisdictional grant required state courts to conform their decisions to those of the United States courts. The doctrine clearly
deducible from the cases is that in matters of commercial law and general jurisprudence, not subject to the authority of Congress or where Congress has not exercised its authority, and in the absence of state legislation, the federal courts will exercise an independent judgment and reach a conclusion upon considerations of right and justice generally applicable, the federal jurisdiction having been established for the very purpose of avoiding the influence of local opinion; but that where the State has legislated, its will thus declared is binding, even upon the federal courts, if it be not inconsistent with the expressed will of Congress respecting a matter that is within its constitutional power. The doctrine concedes as much independence to the courts of the States as it reserves for the courts of the Union. Burgess v. Seligman, 107 U. S. 20, 33, 34; East Alabama Ry. Co. v. Doe, 114 U. S. 340, 353; Gibson v. Lyon, 115 U. S. 439, 446; Anderson v. Santa Anna, 116 U. S. 356, 362; Baltimore & Ohio R. R. Co. v. Baugh, 149 U. S. 368, 372; Folsom v. Ninety-six, 159 U. S. 611, 625; Stanly County v. Coler, 190 U. S. 437, 444; Kuhn v. Fairmont Coal Co., 215 U. S. 349, 357, 360.
In Baltimore & Ohio R. R. Co. v. Baugh, supra, the court had under review the judgment of a circuit court of the United States in an action by a locomotive fireman injured through negligence of the engineer. The cause of action arose in the State of Ohio, and the question presented was whether the engineer and fireman were fellowservants. Under the decisions of the Ohio courts they were, but this court held that, as there was no state statute, the question should not be treated as a question of local law, to be settled by an examination merely of the decisions of the state court of last resort, but should be determined upon general principles; the courts of the United States being under an obligation to exercise an independent judgment. The court, by Mr. Justice Brewer, said (149 U. S. 378): “There is no question as to
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
the power of the States to legislate and change the rules of the common law in this respect as in others; but in the absence of such legislation the question is one determinable only by the general principles of that law. Further than that, it is a question in which the nation as a whole is interested. It enters into the commerce of the country. Commerce between the States is a matter of national regulation, and to establish it as such was one of the principal causes which led to the adoption of our Constitution."
In other words, the general effect of the question upon interstate commerce rendered it one of the class that called for the application of general principles; nevertheless, state legislation would be controlling-in the absence of valid legislation by Congress, of course.
In Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Ry. Co. v. Solan, supra, the doctrine was concisely stated by Mr. Justice Gray, speaking for the court, as follows (169 U. S. 136): “The question of the right of a railroad corporation to contract for exemption from liability for its own negligence is, indeed, like other questions affecting its liability as a common carrier of goods or passengers, one of those questions not of merely local law, but of commercial law or general jurisprudence, upon which this court, in the absence of express statute regulating the subject, will exercise its own judgment, uncontrolled by the decisions of the courts of the State in which the cause of action arises. But the law to be applied is none the less the law of the State; and may be changed by its legislature, except so far as restrained by the constitution of the State or by the Constitution or laws of the United States."
I freely concede the authority of Congress to modify the rules of maritime law so far as they are administered in the federal courts, and to make them binding upon the courts of the States so far as they affect interstate or international relations, or regulate "commerce with foreign
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes." What I contend is that the Constitution does not, proprio vigore, impose the maritime law upon the States except to the extent that the admiralty jurisdiction was exclusive of the courts of common law before the Constitution; that is to say, in the prize jurisdiction, and the peculiar maritime process in rem; and that as to civil actions in personam having a maritime origin, the courts of the States are left free, except as Congress by legislation passed within its legitimate sphere of action may control them; and that Congress, so far from enacting legislation of this character, has from the beginning left the state courts at liberty to apply their own systems of law in those cases where prior to the Constitution they had concurrent jurisdiction with the admiralty, for the saving clause in the Judiciary Act necessarily has this effect.
Surely it cannot be that the mere grant of judicial power in admiralty cases, with whatever general authority over the subject matter can be raised by implication, can, in the absence of legislation, have a greater effect in limiting the legislative powers of the States than that which resulted from the express grant to Congress of an authority to regulate interstate commerce,—the limited effect of which, in the absence of legislation by Congress, we already have seen. The prevailing opinion properly holds that, under the circumstances of the case at bar, although plaintiff in error was engaged in interstate commerce, and the deceased met his death while employed in such commerce, the provisions of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (April 22, 1908, c. 149, 35 Stat. 65) do not apply, because they cover only railroad operations and work connected therewith, whereas the deceased was employed upon an ocean-going ship. In effect it holds also that in the absence of applicable legislation by Congress the express grant of authority to regulate such commerce, as contained in the Constitution, does not exclude the operation of the