MINNEAPOLIS & ST. LOUIS RY. CO. V. HERRICK, 127 U. S. 210 (1888)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Minneapolis & St. Louis Ry. Co. v. Herrick, 127 U.S. 210 (1888)

Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway Company v. Herrick

No. 202

Argued April 2-3, 1888

Decided April 23, 1888

127 U.S. 210




This case is affirmed on the authority of Missouri Pacific Railway Co. v. Mackey, ante, 127 U. S. 205.

The case is stated in the opinion.

MR. JUSTICE FIELD delivered the opinion of the Court.

The defendant is a corporation created under the laws of Minnesota, and in December, 1881, it operated a railroad extending

Page 127 U. S. 211

from Minneapolis in that state to Fort Dodge in Iowa. A law of Iowa then in force provides that

"Every corporation operating employees of such corporation, in damages sustained by any person, including employees of such corporation, in consequence of the neglect of agents, or by any mismanagement of the engineers or other employees of the corporation, and in consequence of the willful wrongs, whether of commission or omission, of such agents, engineers, or other employees, when such wrongs are in any manner connected with the use and operation of any railway on or about which they shall be employed, and no contract which restricts such liability shall be legal or binding."

On the 6th of December, 1881, the plaintiff was employed by the defendant as a brakeman on one of its cars, and on that day, in Webster, in Iowa, it became his duty to make a coupling of an engine and a freight car. The engine was in charge of one of its employees, an engineer, and while the plaintiff was making the coupling, the engine was, by the negligence and mismanagement of the engineer, driven against the car, causing severe and permanent injuries to the plaintiff. To recover damages for the injuries thus sustained, he brought this action in a district court of Minnesota, relying upon the law of Iowa quoted above. The defendant in its answer alleged, and on the trial contended, that this law was abrogated by that provision of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which declares that no state shall deprive any person of property without due process of law nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. The district court held the law to be in full force, and that under it the railroad company was responsible to the plaintiff for the injuries sustained by him through the negligence of the engineer. The plaintiff accordingly recovered a verdict for $2,000, upon which judgment was entered. Upon appeal to the state supreme court, the judgment was affirmed, and to review that judgment the case is brought here.

We have just decided the case of Missouri Pacific Railway Co. v. Mackey, ante, 127 U. S. 205, where similar objections were raised

Page 127 U. S. 212

to a law of Kansas which, on the point here involved, is not essentially different from the law of Iowa -- namely in imposing liabilities upon railroad companies for injuries to employees in its service, though caused by the negligence or incompetency of a fellow servant, and we held that the law was not in conflict with the clauses referred to in the Fourteenth Amendment. On the authority of that case, the judgment in the present one must be


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