Southern Pacific Company v. Gileo - Oral Argument - May 01, 1956 (Part 1)

Southern Pacific Company v. Gileo

Media for Southern Pacific Company v. Gileo

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 01, 1956 (Part 2) in Southern Pacific Company v. Gileo

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 01, 1956 (Part 1) in Southern Pacific Company v. Gileo

Earl Warren:

-- Mr. Dunne.

Arthur B. Dunne:

If Your Honor please.

I learned yesterday at my arrival here that the Court had enlarged the time of the respondents to an hour in view of the fact that I have the burden of stating the five cases.

I'm hopeful that I maybe indulged a little beyond the half hour that was allotted.

Earl Warren:

Your side will have the same as the other side.

Arthur B. Dunne:

Thank you, Your Honor.

Now, this is a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of California which brings to this Court for review five cases decided in that Court, all involving and turning upon substantially the same question.

Each case was an action by an employee against his employer.

The employer as to part of its business was a common carrier by a railroad and as to a part of that business was engaged in interstate commerce.

It was sought to sustain these actions for damages for personal injuries received on the job under the Federal Employers' Liability Act as amended in 1939.

If that Act did not apply, then under California law, the sole remedy of these employees was under the compensation provisions of the California Labor Code and the soul body having jurisdiction to determine their benefits was the California Industrial Accident Commission.

The exclusive jurisdiction of that Commission could be ousted only if this federal statute applied and if it did not, the lower courts are without jurisdiction.

In the Gileo case, the matter of jurisdiction was reserved until the time of trial and was determined by the trial court as a matter of law in favor of its jurisdiction.

The plaintiff had a judgment upon the verdict and that was affirmed by the Supreme Court of California after an intermediate Court of Appeal, the District Court of Appeal had determined the case should be reversed.

In the other four cases, which were pending in Sacramento, the jurisdictional question was separately tried to the Court sitting without a jury.

In two of the cases, the Court determined that it had no jurisdiction and upon that face -- that face of the trial, entered judgment for the defendant.

Those judgements were reversed by the Supreme Court of California.

In the other two cases, the question was likewise separately determined and the trial court determined in favor of its jurisdiction.

In both cases there was a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

In one of them, the judgment was added on the verdict and was affirmed.

In the other on motion for a judgment non obstante veredicto, the Court entered judgment for the defendant but not on the jurisdictional point upon the ground that no negligence had been shown.

That judgment was reversed by the Supreme Court of California.

So that in all five cases, the Supreme Court of California has determined that the trial courts had jurisdiction and that judgments should -- for the plaintiff should be affirmed where they had judgments and in the other two cases, the cases should go back for trial upon the question of negligence and damages.

The question that is presented here then is under the Federal Employers' Liability Act in Section 1 of that Act which is set out at pages 5 and 6 of our brief.

You will notice that the statute is in two paragraphs.

The critical words in the first paragraph are that the statute shall apply to every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between the States and so forth, and that such described employer shall be liable to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce.

That language comes from the Act of 1908 and when the statute was amended in 1939, that language was reenacted.

There is a second paragraph of the statute and upon the other side it is claimed and it was so held by the Supreme Court of California that the critical language there was the controlling language and the provision there is that any employee of a carrier, any part of whose duties as such employee shall be the furtherance of interstate or foreign commerce or shall, in anyway directly or closely and substantially, affect such commerce shall be for the purposes of the Act considered as having been employed in interstate commerce.

I later shall want to comment on the history of that language in this amendment, how that language got in there and of course of the enactment.

I suggest first that this statute as it now reads poses two questions, does the employer fit the description of the statute?