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U.S. Supreme Court

Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Ry. Co. v. Hackett, 228 U.S. 559 (1913)

Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville

Railway Company v. Hackett

No. 889

Submitted February 24, 1913

Decided May 5, 1913

228 U.S. 559


This Court has heretofore sustained the constitutionality of the statute of Indiana of 1893 abolishing as to railroad corporations the defense to actions for personal injuries sustained by employees of negligence of a fellow-servant. Tullis v. Lake Erie Railroad, 175 U. S. 348; Louis. & Nash. R. Co. v. Melton, 218 U. S. 36, 38 [argument of counsel -- omitted].

If a state statute has been construed by the highest state court, it is the duty of this Court to determine its constitutionality under the federal Constitution as so construed.

The Supreme Court of Indiana having held that the statute of 1893 of that state abolishing the fellow servant defense only applied to railroad employees whose occupation exposed them to hazards incident to operation of trains, this Court holds, following its previous decisions, that the statute is not unconstitutional as denying equal protection of the laws.

Quaere whether a state statute applicable to all employees of a railroad company, whether exposed to hazard of operations of trains or not, contravenes the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The court below was justified in holding, on the facts in this case, that a yard foreman was in charge or control of the train on which the employee sustained his injuries.

One who did not in the court below plead or prove the settled judicial construction of a statute of another state cannot claim that full faith and credit was denied to the judicial construction of such statute by the courts of the enacting state.

The putting in evidence of opinions of the highest court of a state construing a statute of that state does not amount to proving a settled construction of that statute.

In order that this Court may review the judgment of a state court on the ground that it denied full faith and credit to the judicial construction of a statute of a state by the courts of that state, the right or claim under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution

Page 228 U. S. 560

must have been set up in the court below. It is too late to set it up in the petition for writ of error from this Court.

An unconstitutional statute is not a law, and is as inoperative as though it never had been passed; it can neither confer a right or immunity nor operate to succeed any existing valid law, and so held as to Employers' Liability Act of 1906.

Quaere the extent to which the Employers' Liability Statute superseded state statutes upon the same subject.

The purpose of Congress cannot be indicated by a statute which is unconstitutional.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of the statute of Indiana abolishing as to railroad companies the fellow servant defense, are stated in the opinion.

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