Southern Pacific Company v. Gileo

PETITIONER: Southern Pacific Company

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)

ARGUED: May 01, 1956
DECIDED: Jun 11, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for Southern Pacific Company v. Gileo

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

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

Earl Warren:

Mr. Colley, you may proceed.

Nathaniel S. Colley:

Just a few more words about the Moreno case, the one involving the employee and the retarder yard.

Fortunately, we have a case which is almost identical with the Moreno case decided by the District Court for the Eastern District of New York and cited in briefs of all parties, I believe.

It's Agostini -- Agostino versus Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

In this case, the worker was engaged in a project which was a realignment of the railroad tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and also to straighten some curves and shorten the track.

In other words, it was an improvement over an existing highway of interstate commerce.

Well, if the Agostino case was directly decided as we have every reason to believe that it was, then certainly, this Court must affirm the judgment of the Supreme Court of California in the Moreno case because what Moreno was doing was nothing more than helping to improve an existing highway of interstate commerce.

This is shown in the record by the testimony of the employees of the Southern Pacific Company other than Mr. Moreno himself.

The testimony show that this project was conceived to switch over a change, an existing method of switching freight trains.

Heretofore, the Southern Pacific Company had been switching trains in that same area of Roseville, California and in fact, they'd been doing it for many, many years, but they had been doing it by manual switching or by switch engines.

Somebody conceived the idea that it would be an improvement over their method of switching if they had what they called "gravity switching" by a retarder yard.

In order to achieve this improvement in that existing method of switching or in -- in order to effect this improvement in their existing highway of interstate commerce, they did many things.

One of the things they did was to tear up the old mainline of the passenger train, at that point, the old interstate line and move it to the north, a few hundred feet.

Now, in tearing up the old mainline, of course they used the cross ties.

From the old mainline, they used a rail, they used everything they took up in helping to construct these new project.

So, in every sense of the word, this was really simply an improvement over an existing method of switching and that that testimony is from the supervisory employee of the railroad company in exactly that language and it appears in the record.

To that extent then that this certainly was not a new project.

If we define new as the usual way of defining it, something which didn't exist before, they certainly had a method of switching.

This was just an effort to improve it.

To that extent, it was simply maintenance and repair.

Stanley Reed:

Are you familiar with the Raymond case?

Nathaniel S. Colley:

Yes, I am, Your Honor.

Stanley Reed:

Was -- was that an improvement of -- method too?

Nathaniel S. Colley:

Yes, and I think the -- to that extent, the right -- if I'm -- I'm correct, the Raymond case was a tunnel.

Stanley Reed:


Nathaniel S. Colley:

Well, I think there are distinctions but let me say that I don't think the Raymond case was correctly decided, but I think there are distinctions between Moreno and -- and -- Agostino and Raymond.

I would say that the Raymond case was not directly decided, but I would say this that the Court would not have to go quite that far to accept and affirm the judgment in the Moreno case, but I do not hesitate to say that -- that I think Raymond was incorrectly decided especially if we take Senator Austin's words at their face value when he inserted these words in this Act, when he said that I'm simply -- I want to use words of art, words of the court has given a meaning to and use those words and it would be an anomaly now, it seems to me, for this Court to come along and say to Senator Austin, "We -- we see what you said.

We know what had in mind but we're not going to accept what you said.

We're going to do something else entirely.

We're not going to extend it as far as you said, you call yourself extending it."