TEXAS & NEW ORLEANS R. CO. V. MILLER, 221 U. S. 408 (1911)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Texas & New Orleans R. Co. v. Miller, 221 U.S. 408 (1911)

Texas & New Orleans Railroad Company v. Miller

No. 831

Submitted April 17, 1911

Decided May 15, 1911

221 U.S. 408


The protection of charter rights by the contract clause of the federal Constitution is subject to the rule that a legislature cannot bargain away the police power, or withdraw from its successors the power to guard the public safety, health, and morals.

A provision in its charter exempting a railroad company from liability for death of employees, even if caused by its own negligence, does not

Page 221 U. S. 409

amount to an irrevocable contract within the protection of the federal Constitution, but is as much subject to future legislative action as though embodied in a separate statute.

Provisions in a corporate charter which are beyond the power of the legislature to grant are not within the protection of the contract clause of the federal Constitution.

Where there is no allegation or proof that the highest court of a state has construed a statute of that state, it becomes the duty of the courts of another state, which do not take judicial knowledge of decisions of other states, to construe the statute and its effect upon prior statutes according to their independent judgment. Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Melton, 218 U. S. 36.

The decision of a state court construing a statute of another state under such circumstances is not subject to review by this Court if no federal right is involved. Eastern Building & Loan Assn. v Ebaugh, 185 U. S. 114.

This Court will not disturb the decision of the courts of Texas that the Act of Louisiana of 1884, giving a right of action to relatives of persons killed by negligence of another, repealed the provisions in the charter of a railroad company granted in 1878 exempting it from liability for a person killed by its negligence, and the Act of 1884 is not unconstitutional as impairing any contract obligation in such charter.

An omission in the complaint can be cured by an allegation in the answer. United States v. Morris, 10 Wheat. 246.

Where an action is commenced in the courts of one state, based on a right given by the statute of another state provided it be commenced within a specified period, which has not expired, the omission of the plaintiff to plead the statute may be cured by the defendant pleading the statute, although the answer may not be filed until after the period of limitation has expired, and the decision of the state court to that effect does not violate the full faith and credit clause of the federal Constitution, and involves no federal question.

128 S.W. 1165 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the construction of certain acts of Louisiana and their constitutionality under the contract clause of the Constitution and whether the courts of Texas, in construing them, had failed to give them full faith and credit as required by the Constitution, are stated in the opinion.

Page 221 U. S. 412

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