Andrews v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company

RESPONDENT: Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company
LOCATION: Major League Baseball Commissioner’s Office

DOCKET NO.: 71-300
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 406 US 320 (1972)
ARGUED: Mar 22, 1972
DECIDED: May 15, 1972

Andrew W. Estes - for petitioner
William H. Major - for respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Andrews v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 22, 1972 in Andrews v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company

Warren E. Burger:

-- next in 71-300, Andrews against the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company and others.

Mr. Estes you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Andrew W. Estes:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

I represent Thomas L. Andrews who used to be a railroad man.

One day Mr. Andrews had an automobile accident, which had nothing to with his employment where he was injured necessitating a medical furlough which he was duly given.

In due time he regained his health and attempted to return to work.

When he got back, tried to go to work, he found that he was still on medical furlough and even with the doctor' certificate he was not permitted to work, and of course he was not paid either.

The Railroad, of course, in its defensive pleadings contended that he was neither a fish nor a fowl, that he was not employed and he was not discharged.

Mr. Andrews in his complaint, originally in the State Court, then removed to Federal District Court contends that these acts and other acts amount to a common law of wrongful discharge which the state of Georgia recognizes as a common law action.

Now what we have today is really a jurisdictional question and it's to determine whether or not courts have jurisdiction over a common law wrongful discharge action arising out of a discharge of a union railroad employee or whether the employee must, and I use the term exhaust loosely of the moment, exhaust his administrative remedies.

I think I can show later that we no longer have an exhaustion of the administrative remedies, rather it amounts to an election of administrative remedies.

The Court has undoubtedly noticed how brief the petitioner's brief is, because we have a very simple contention.

We rely primarily, almost solely on the Moore versus Central Illinois Railroad Company decided by this Court in 1940.

The rationale in that case of course was that a railroad union employee could elect either to pursue his administrative remedies or could sue in the court of law for a common wrongful discharge, and we rely squarely on that case.

Mr. Moore was fired by the Illinois Central Railroad because he had the audacity to sue them on an FELA case, should understand that as general --

William O. Douglas:

He wants the reinstatement or --

Andrew W. Estes:

No, Your Honor, he does not.

He wants to sue them for damages.

The board could, if he made his election and I don't call that exhaustion, but if he made his election, the board could reinstate him, grant him back pay, and give him his job.

He doesn't want that.

He wants to sue for damages.

This Court has said, by the way, on numerous occasions and I will quote in the Slocum case, a common law statutory action for wrongful discharge differs from any remedy that board has power to provide and does not involve questions of future relations between the railroad and other employees.

Of course, this general philosophy was stated very well by Mr. Justice Blackmun in the Arguelles case which I've cited not, by the way, as authority for this case, but because of the language in that, I would like to get to it a minute.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

It's definitely -- what would be the measure of damages in the lawsuit?

Andrew W. Estes:

I think there would be several things, sir, Mr. Justice Brennan.

One, of course there would be the difference between the wages that he would have made with Railroad and wages he has in the past.

Also, prospectively --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Then I gather this -- the crux of the liability would be wrongful discharge, is that it?

Andrew W. Estes:

That's right, Your Honor, under a common law theory.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Before the board I gather -- the board could award back pay, a back pay for wrongful discharge, but nothing in excess of that pay, is that right?