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decided: May 21, 1917.



Author: Mcreynolds

[ 244 U.S. Page 207]

 MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the court.

Upon a claim regularly presented, the Workmen's Compensation Commission of New York made the following findings of fact, rulings and award, October 9, 1914:

"1. Christen Jensen, the deceased workman, was, on August 15, 1914, an employee of the Southern Pacific Company, a corporation of the State of Kentucky, where it has its principal office. It also has an office at Pier 49, North River, New York City. The Southern Pacific Company at said time was, and still is, a common carrier by railroad. It also owned and operated a steamship El Oriente, plying between the ports of New York and Galveston, Texas.

"2. On August 15, 1914, said steamship was breathed

[ 244 U.S. Page 208]

     for discharging and loading at Pier 49, North River, lying in navigable waters of the United States.

"3. On said date Christen Jensen was operating a small electric freight truck. His work consisted in driving the truck into the steamship El Oriente where it was loaded with cargo, then driving the truck out of the vessel upon a gangway connecting the vessel with Pier 49, North River, and thence upon the pier, where the lumber was unloaded from the truck. The ship was about 10 feet distant from the pier. At about 10:15 A.M., after Jensen had been doing such work for about three hours that morning, he started out of the ship with his truck loaded with lumber, a part of the cargo of the steamship El Oriente, which was being transported from Galveston, Texas, to New York City. Jensen stood on the rear of the truck, the lumber coming about to his shoulder. In driving out of the port in the side of the vessel and upon the gangway, the truck became jammed against the guide pieces on the gangway. Jensen then reversed the direction of the truck and proceeded at third or full speed backward into the hatchway. He failed to lower his head and his head struck the ship at the top line, throwing his head forward and causing his chin to hit the lumber in front of him. His neck was broken and in this manner he met his death.

"4. The business of the Southern Pacific Company in this State consisted at the time of the accident and now consists solely in carrying passengers and merchandise between New York and other States. Jensen's work consisted solely in moving cargo destined to and from other States.

"5. Jensen left him surviving Marie Jensen, his widow, 29 years of age, and Howard Jensen, his son, seven years of age, and Evelyn Jensen, his daughter, three years of age.

"6. Jensen's average weekly wage was $19.60 per week.

"7. The injury was an accidental injury and arose out of

[ 244 U.S. Page 209]

     and in the course of Jensen's employment by the Southern Pacific Company and his death was due to such injury. The injury did not result solely from the intoxication of the injured employee while on duty, and was not occasioned by the wilful intention of the injured employee to bring about the injury or death of himself or another."

"This claim comes within the meaning of Chapter 67 of the Consolidated Laws as re-enacted and amended by Chapter 41 of the Laws of 1914, and as amended by Chapter 316 of the Laws of 1914."

"Award of compensation is hereby made to Marie Jensen, widow of the deceased, at the rate of $5.87 weekly during her widowhood with two years' compensation in one sum in case of her remarriage; to Harold Jensen, son of the deceased, at the rate of $1.96 per week and to Evelyn Jensen, daughter of the deceased, at the rate of $1.96 per week until the said Harold Jensen and Evelyn Jensen respectively shall arrive at the age of eighteen years, and there is further allowed the sum of One Hundred ($100) Dollars for funeral expenses."

In due time the Southern Pacific Company objected to the award "upon the grounds that the Act does not apply because the workman was engaged in interstate commerce on board a vessel of a foreign corporation of the State of Kentucky which was engaged solely in interstate commerce; that the injury was one with respect to which Congress may establish, and has established, a rule of liability, and under the language of Section 114,*fn1 [copied

[ 244 U.S. Page 210]

     in the margin] the Act has no application; on the ground that the Act includes only those engaged in the operation of vessels other than those of other states and countries in foreign and interstate commerce, while the work upon which the deceased workman was engaged at the time of his death was part of the operation of a vessel of another state engaged in interstate commerce, and hence does not come within the provisions of the Act; further, that the Act is unconstitutional, as it constitutes a regulation of and burden upon commerce among the several States in violation of Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the United States; in that it takes property without due process of law in violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution; in that it denies the Southern Pacific Company the equal protection of the laws in violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution because the Act does not afford an exclusive remedy, but leaves the employer and its vessels subject to suit in admiralty; also that the Act is unconstitutional in that it violates Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution conferring admiralty jurisdiction upon the courts of the United States."

Without opinion, the Appellate Division approved the award and the Court of Appeals affirmed this action (215 N.Y. 514, 519), holding that the Workmen's Compensation Act applied to the employment in question and was not obnoxious to the Federal Constitution. It said: "The scheme of the statute is essentially and fundamentally one by the creation of a state fund to insure the payment of a prescribed compensation based on earnings for disability or death from accidental injuries sustained by employees engaged in certain enumerated hazardous employments. The state fund is created from premiums

[ 244 U.S. Page 211]

     paid by employers based on the payroll, the number of employees and the hazards of the employment. The employer has the option of insuring with any stock corporation or mutual association authorized to transact such business, or of furnishing satisfactory proof to the commission of his own financial ability to pay. If he does neither he is liable to a penalty equal to the pro rata premium payable to the state fund during the period of his non-compliance and is subject to a suit for damages by the injured employee, or his legal representative in case of death, in which he is deprived of the defenses of contributory negligence, assumed risk and negligence of a fellow-servant. By insuring in the state fund, or by himself or his insurance carrier paying the prescribed compensation, the employer is relieved from further liability for personal injuries or death sustained by employees. Compensation is to be made without regard to fault as a cause of the injury, except where it is occasioned by the willful intention of the injured employee to bring about the injury or death of himself or another or results solely from his intoxication while on duty. Compensation is not based on the rule of damages applied in negligence suits but in addition to providing for medical, surgical or other attendance or treatment and funeral expenses it is based solely on loss of earning power. Thus the risk of accidental injuries occurring with or without fault on the part either of employee or employer is shared by both and the burden of making compensation is distributed over all enumerated hazardous employments in proportion to the risk involved." See also Walker v. Clyde Steamship Co., 215 N.Y. 529.

In New York Central R.R. Co. v. White, 243 U.S. 188, we held the statute valid in certain respects; and, considering what was there said, only two of the grounds relied on for reversal now demand special consideration. First. Plaintiff in error being an interstate common

[ 244 U.S. Page 212]

     carrier by railroad is responsible for injuries received by employees while engaged therein under the Federal Employers' Liability Act of April 22, 1908, c. 149, 35 Stat. 65, and no state statute can impose any other or different liability. Second. As here applied, the Workmen's Compensation Act conflicts with the general maritime law, which constitutes an integral part of the federal law under Art. III, § 2, of the Constitution, and to that extent is invalid.

The Southern Pacific Company, a Kentucky Corporation, owns and operates a railroad as a common carrier; also the steamship El Oriente plying between New York and Galveston, Texas. The claim is that therefore rights and liabilities of the parties here must be determined in accordance with the Federal Employers' Liability Act. But we think that act is not applicable in the circumstances.

The first Federal Employers' Liability Act (June 11, 1906, c. 3073, 34 Stat. 232) extended in terms to all common carriers engaged in interstate or foreign commerce, and because it embraced subjects not within the constitutional authority of Congress was declared invalid. The Employers' Liability Cases, 207 U.S. 463, January 6, 1908. The later act is carefully limited and provides that "every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several States or Territories, or between any of the States and Territories, or between the District of Columbia and any of the States and Territories, or between the District of Columbia or any of the States and Territories and any foreign nation or nations, shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce, or, in case of the death of such employee, to his or her personal representative, for the benefit of the surviving widow or husband and children of such employee; and, if none, then of such employee's

[ 244 U.S. Page 213]

     parents; and, if none, then of the next of kin dependent upon such employee, for such injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment."

Evidently the purpose was to prescribe a rule applicable where the parties are engaging in something having direct and substantial connection with railroad operations, and not with another kind of carriage recognized as separate and distinct from transportation on land and no mere adjunct thereto. It is unreasonable to suppose that Congress intended to change long-established rules applicable to maritime matters merely because the ocean-going ship concerned happened to be owned and operated by a company also a common carrier by railroad. The word "boats" in the statute refers to vessels which may be properly regarded as in substance but part of a railroad's extension or equipments as understood and applied in common practice.

The fundamental purpose of the Compensation Law as declared by the Court of Appeals is "the creation of a state fund to insure the payment of a prescribed compensation based on earnings for disability or death from accidental injuries sustained by employees engaged in certain enumerated hazardous employments," among them being "longshore work, including the loading or unloading of cargoes or parts of cargoes of grain, coal, ore, freight, general merchandise, lumber or other products or materials, or moving or handling the same on any dock, platform or place, or in any warehouse or other place of storage." Its general provisions are specified in our opinion in New York Central R.R. Co. v. White, supra, and need not be repeated. Under the construction adopted by the state courts no ship may load or discharge her

[ 244 U.S. Page 214]

     cargo at a dock therein without incurring a penalty, unless her owners comply with the act which, in order to secure payment of compensation for accidents, generally without regard to fault and based upon annual wages, provides (§ 50) that -- "An employer shall secure compensation to his employees in one of the following ways:

"1. By insuring and keeping insured the payment of such compensation in the state fund, or -- 2. By insuring and keeping insured the payment of such compensation with any stock corporation or mutual association authorized to transact the business of workmen's compensation insurance in this state. If insurance be so effected in such a corporation or mutual association the employer shall forthwith file with the commission, in form prescribed by it, a notice specifying the name of such insurance corporation or mutual association together with a copy of the contract or policy of insurance. -- 3. By furnishing satisfactory proof to the commission of his financial ability to pay such compensation for himself, in which case the commission may, in its discretion, require the deposit with the commission of securities of the kind prescribed in section thirteen of the insurance law, in an amount to be determined by the commission, to secure his liability to pay the compensation provided in this chapter."

"If an employer fail to comply with this section, he shall be liable to a penalty during which such failure continues of an amount equal to the pro rata premium which would have been payable for insurance in the state fund for such period of noncompliance to be recovered in an action brought by the commission."

Article III, § 2, of the Constitution, extends the judicial power of the United States "To all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;" and Article I, § 8, confers upon the Congress power "To make all laws which may be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers and all other powers vested by this Constitution

[ 244 U.S. Page 215]

     in the government of the United States or in any department or officer thereof." Considering our former opinions, it must now be accepted as settled doctrine that in consequence of these provisions Congress has paramount power to fix and determine the maritime law which shall prevail throughout the country. Butler v. Boston & Savannah Steamship Co., 130 U.S. 527; In re Garnett, 141 U.S. 1, 14 and further, that in the absence of some controlling statute the general maritime law as accepted by the federal courts constitutes part of our national law applicable to matters within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. The Lottawanna, 21 Wall. 558; Butler v. Boston & Savannah Steamship Co., 130 U.S. 257, 557; Workman v. New York City, 179 U.S. 552.

In The Lottawanna Mr. Justice Bradley speaking for the court said: "That we have a maritime law of our own, operative throughout the United States, cannot be doubted. The general system of maritime law which was familiar to the lawyers and statesmen of the country when the Constitution was adopted, was most certainly intended and referred to when it was declared in that instrument that the judicial power of the United States shall extend 'to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.' . . . One thing, however, is unquestionable; the Constitution must have referred to a system of law coextensive with, and operating uniformly in, the whole country. It certainly could not have been intended to place the rules and limits of maritime law under the disposal and regulation of the several States, as that would have defeated the uniformity and consistency at which the Constitution aimed on all subjects of a commercial character affecting the intercourse of the States with each other or with foreign states."

By § 9, Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 76, 77, the District Courts of the United States were given "exclusive original cognizance of all civil causes of admiralty and

[ 244 U.S. Page 216]

     maritime jurisdiction; . . . saving to suitors, in all cases, the right of a common law remedy, where the common law is competent to give it." And this grant has been continued. Judicial Code, §§ 24 and 256.

In view of these constitutional provisions and the federal act it would be difficult, it not impossible, to define with exactness just how far the general maritime law may be changed, modified, or affected by state legislation. That this may be done to some extent cannot be denied. A lien upon a vessel for repairs in her own port may be given by state statute, The Lottawanna, 21 Wall. 558, 579, 580; The J. E. Rumbell, 148 U.S. 1; pilotage fees fixed, Cooley v. Board of Wardens, 12 How. 299; Ex parte McNiel, 13 Wall. 236, 242; and the right given to recover in death cases, The Hamilton, 207 U.S. 398; La Bourgogne, 210 U.S. 95, 138. See The City of Norwalk, 55 Fed. Rep. 98, 106. Equally well established is the rule that state statutes may not contravene an applicable act of Congress or affect the general maritime law beyond certain limits. They cannot authorize proceedings in rem according to the course in admiralty, The Moses Taylor, 4 Wall. 411; Steamboat Co. v. Chase, 16 Wall. 522, 534; The Glide, 167 U.S. 606; nor create liens for materials used in repairing a foreign ship, The Roanoke, 189 U.S. 185. See Workman v. New York City, 179 U.S. 552. And plainly, we think, no such legislation is valid if it contravenes the essential purpose expressed by an act of Congress or works material prejudice to the characteristic features of the general maritime law or interferes with the proper harmony and uniformity of that law in its international and interstate relations. This limitation, at the least, is essential to the effective operation of the fundamental purpose for which such law was incorporated into our national laws by the Constitution itself. These purposes are forcefully indicated in the foregoing quotations from The Lottawanna.

A similar rule in respect to interstate commerce deduced

[ 244 U.S. Page 217]

     from the grant to Congress of power to regulate it is now firmly established. "Where the subject is national in its character, and admits and requires uniformity of regulation, affecting alike all the States, such as transportation between the States, including the importation of goods from one State into another, Congress can alone act upon it and provide the needed regulations. The absence of any law of Congress on the subject is equivalent to its declaration that commerce in that matter shall be free." Bowman v. Chicago & Northwestern Ry. Co., 125 U.S. 465, 507, 508; Vance v. Vandercook Co., 170 U.S. 438, 444; Clark Distilling Co. v. Western Maryland Ry. Co., 242 U.S. 311. And the same character of reasoning which supports this rule, we think, makes imperative the stated limitation upon the power of the States to interpose where maritime matters are involved.

The work of a stevedore in which the deceased was engaging is maritime in its nature; his employment was a maritime contract; the injuries which he received were likewise maritime; and the rights and liabilities of the parties in connection therewith were matters clearly within the admiralty jurisdiction. Atlantic Transport Co. v. Imbrovek, 234 U.S. 52, 59, 60.

If New York can subject foreign ships coming into her ports to such obligations as those imposed by her Compensation Statute, other States may do likewise. The necessary consequence would be destruction of the very uniformity in respect to maritime matters which the Constitution was designed to establish; and freedom of navigation between the States and with foreign countries would be seriously hampered and impeded. A far more serious injury would result to commerce than could have been inflicted by the Washington statute authorizing a materialman's lien condemned in The Roanoke. The legislature exceeded its authority in attempting to extend the statute under consideration to conditions like those here disclosed.

[ 244 U.S. Page 218]

     So applied, it conflicts with the Constitution and to that extent is invalid.

Exclusive jurisdiction of all civil cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction is vested in the Federal District Courts, "saving to suitors, in all cases, the right of a common law remedy, where the common law is competent to give it." The remedy which the Compensation Statute attempts to give is of a character wholly unknown to the common law, incapable of enforcement by the ordinary processes of any court and is not saved to suitors from the grant of exclusive jurisdiction. The Hine v. Trevor, 4 Wall. 555, 571, 572; the Belfast, 7 Wall. 624, 644; Steamboat Co. v. Chase, 16 Wall. 522, 531, 533; The Glide, 167 U.S. 606, 623. And finally this remedy is not consistent with the policy of Congress to encourage investments in ships manifested in the Acts of 1851 and 1884 (Rev. Stats., §§ 4283-4285; § 18, Act of June 26, 1884, c. 121, 23 Stat. 57) which declare a limitation upon the liability of their owners. Richardson v. Harmon, 222 U.S. 96, 104.

The judgment of the court below must be reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.


MR. JUSTICE HOLMES, dissenting.

The Southern Pacific Company has been held liable under the statutes of New York for an accidental injury happening upon a gang-plank between a pier and the company's vessel and causing the death of one of its employees. The company not having insured as permitted, the statute may be taken as if it simply imposed a limited but absolute liability in such a case. The short question is whether the power of the State to regulate the liability in ...

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