Edwards v. Pacific Fruit Express Company

RESPONDENT: Pacific Fruit Express Company
LOCATION: Congress

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 390 US 538 (1968)
ARGUED: Mar 14, 1968
DECIDED: Apr 08, 1968

Facts of the case


Media for Edwards v. Pacific Fruit Express Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 14, 1968 in Edwards v. Pacific Fruit Express Company

Earl Warren:

Elijah Edwards, Petitioner, versus Pacific Fruit Express Company.

Mr. Werchick.

Arne Werchick:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act was halted in its infancy when summary judgment was granted against petitioner in the District Court.

The judgment was granted in favor of respondent Pacific Fruit Express, the District Court saying that respondent was not a common carrier by railroad and therefore not under the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed this judgment explicitly construing the coverage of the Act narrowly and stating so in its opinion, briefed opinion as specifically rejecting what it termed a broader definition of the terms of the Act.

This Court granted certiorari.

The issue essentially before this Court is the question of coverage under the Employers' Liability Act and whether it is to be decided as this Court has approached similar questions of coverage and also the general application of this Act in the past or whether the question of coverage is to be given a new and narrow technical meaning.

Facts of this suit as it come to this Court are not in dispute.

It is essentially conceded.

The petitioner was employed by the respondent.

He was injured on the job.

He was working in Roseville, California on the yards of the -- that are operated by the respondent.

It is a large refrigerator car icing operation.

The facts, of course, describing the specifics of the operation are set out in great detail on the record on the briefs and I will refer to some of them as I proceed, but I don't think it's necessary to take the Court's time to set out all of the facts relating to the description of respondent's operation.

Sufficed to say at this point that it is not disputed, in fact it is set forth in respondent's affidavit in the record that petitioner's job involved the servicing of railroad, refrigerator boxcars, placing of ice, loading and unloading of ice and heaters, and other equipment in and out of refrigerator boxcars, for the purpose of making these boxcars able to carry perishable commodities in interstate commerce.

And about this, it does not seem to be any dispute in the record.

Regarding this -- the factual description of Pacific Fruit Express, there is also very little disagreement.

The disagreement between the parties here before this Court seems to be the conclusion to be drawn from this description.

Respondent is described with partial accuracy as a refrigerator car company.

And by the Interstate Commerce Commission statistical reports with also -- with partial accuracy as a private car line.

Respondent is owned wholly by two rail haul lines, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads.

In fact, it is more than a car company because it owns some roughly 25,000 boxcars, refrigerator boxcars and is the largest owner and operator of these cars in the United States.

It dominates what might be called the refrigerator car company industry or branch of the railroad industry if you will.

It represents basically half of that industry in terms of the number of employees, its holding in refrigerator cars alike.

There are seven such companies in the United States, all of them owned by rail haul carriers and operated to service.

The obligations of those rail haul carriers that they're required by law to provide the care necessary to ship perishables by railroad in the United States.

There are about one million carloads of perishable commodities shipped in the United States each year and respondent in their words originates and otherwise handles about 285,000 carloads, or approximately almost 30% of the nation's total.

Respondent describes itself in this record as in materials in this record as the nation's largest operator of refrigerator railcars.

And in 1965, PFE cars moved over one billion miles.