Smith v. Butler

LOCATION: Mapp's Residence

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 366 US 161 (1961)
ARGUED: Mar 27, 1961 / Mar 28, 1961
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Smith v. Butler

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1961 in Smith v. Butler

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1961 in Smith v. Butler

Earl Warren:

Number 313, Bert Smith, Petitioner, versus J. Turner Butler et al., Trustees.

Mr. Frates.

William S. Frates:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The petitioner is here asking this Honorable Court to set aside a final judgment for the respondent, reverse the opinion of the Florida District Court of Appeals and reinstate the jury verdict for the petitioner in a Federal Employers' Liability Act case which he recovered after a several day of trial.

The petitioner was a railroad employee, was given a so-called "field test".

He was or suffered personal injuries, received a jury verdict which was taken away from him by the Florida Court of Appeals.

The issue to the petitioner seems to be whether or not the manner, method and motive in giving an alleged field test, which resulted in personal injury to the petitioner, states an issue under the Federal Employers' Liability Act or as a grievance under the Railway Labor Act which what -- is what the Florida Appellate Court determined.

The Florida Appellate Court held and I quote, "That there was no justiciable issue at least under the Federal Employers' Liability Act that could be raised as to the propriety or the right of the railroad to give a test.

And if the petitioner will agree, he had a remedy for such grievance under the Railway Labor Act, completely ignoring a fact, that the Railway Labor Act provides no remedy for personal injury.

Petitioner contended in his complaint that the railroad was liable in the following respects, in negligently and unlawfully requiring the plaintiff to participate in such a field test and two, in negligently allowing the servants, agents or supervisors to conduct such a test which resulted in a personal injury to the railroad employee.

The Florida court states in its opinion that there could be no issue under such allegation and made some statement about a reasonable safe place to work which we felt had no application.

In 1956, Bert Smith, flagman on the Florida East Coast, weighed 262 pounds.

This was lower than his average weight.

His previous weight had been sometimes in the 300.

He was 61 years of age.

He was five foot and three.

He was and is a legend on the Florida East Coast Railroad.

He is a man who knew all the roads and had never received a demerit in 30 years -- 37 years of service as a bagger and a flagman.

Potter Stewart:

Suppose his nickname was Tiny usually is.

William S. Frates:

It's his colleague's language, sir.

Potter Stewart:


William S. Frates:

In September of 1956, a railroad supervisor asked Smith to retire.

He was on the train and get ready to go to Jacksonville.

Mr. Smith advised him that he had two or three more years of good service and he refused to retire.

He was then ordered to take an alleged physical fitness test.

This was the first term in the history of this railroad that anybody in his capacity had ever been requested or ordered to take this type of test.

The railroad had been in existence since 1896.

The railroad or the supervisors of the railroad admittedly the bias of test that it knew Smith, in his physical condition, could not pass.

It was a walking a mile down the tracks on a hot humid Florida day.

There had been very little change in Smith's physical conditions for a period of several years.