BALTIMORE & OHIO R. CO., 240 U. S. 620 (1916)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 240 U.S. 620 (1916)

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company

No. 245

Submitted January 25, 1916

Decided April 10, 1916

240 U.S. 620




The wage of an employee residing in West Virginia having been garnisheed in the hands of his employer in Virginia, judgment was entered without notice to the employee, none being required under the Virginia statute, and paid by the garnishee; the employee then sued for his wages in West Virginia and the courts of that state refused to enforce the Virginia judgment for want of service; held error, and that, under the full faith and credit provision of the federal Constitution, the judgment of the Virginia court protected the garnishee.

The facts, which involve the construction and application of the full faith and credit provision of the Constitution of the United States, are stated in the opinion.

Page 240 U. S. 622

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Hostetter, the defendant in error, a resident of West Virginia, sued in a justice's court in that state for wages due him by the railroad company, now plaintiff in error. The defense was that the wages had been paid by the railroad company as the result of a garnishment proceeding taken against it in the State of Virginia, where it was suable, to enforce a judgment rendered in Virginia against Hostetter when he resided in that state, and after a domiciliary service on him. The case went from the justice's court for a de novo trial to the intermediate court of Marion County, where, as the result of a verdict against the railroad company, it was condemned to pay again, the court holding that the Virginia garnishment proceeding was not entitled to be enforced as against Hostetter under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution of the United States because he was not served with process in such proceeding, he then residing in West Virginia, although extrajudicial notice was given him by the railroad company of the proceeding. The case is here on writ of error to review the judgment of the court below, affirming that of the intermediate court, and whether proper force was given to the full faith and credit clause is the question for decision.

It is true that, in the argument for the defendant in error, various suggestions are made as to the insufficiency of the record concerning the existence of the Virginia judgment upon which reliance on the full faith and credit

Page 240 U. S. 623

clause was placed, on the ground that the record contains mere recitals with reference to the judgment, etc., etc. For the sake of brevity, we do not stop to review these suggestions, although we have considered them all, since we think they are not only without merit, but many of them are in effect frivolous, because in our opinion the record suffices to establish the facts which were stated by the court below as the basis for its judgment, and which we briefly recapitulate as follows:

The plaintiff, in July, 1911, resided in Clifton Forge, Virginia, and was indebted to one Wagner in the sum of $35, for which debt Wagner obtained a judgment against him in a justice's court of Virginia, based upon a summons served

"on said plaintiff . . . by delivering a copy thereof to the wife the plaintiff at his usual place of abode. . . . Said record further shows . . . that, on the 17th day of September, 1912, a garnishee summons was issued by H. H. Harlow, a justice of the peace in the City of Staunton, Virginia, . . . which garnishee summons was directed against the said Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company . . . charging that it had money, or other personal estate, in its possession or control belonging to the said Hostetter, and requiring the said railroad company to appear . . . to answer said garnishment or suggestion; . . . and that, on the 3rd day of October, 1912, said justice last above named rendered a judgment against the said Hostetter and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company in favor of the said Wagner in the sum of $38.40, with interest. . . . In this garnishment or suggestion proceeding, no notice or process of any kind was given to or served upon the said Hostetter, he then being a resident of this state [West Virginia], and had been such resident for more than a year previous to the date of the institution of the garnishment proceeding. From this said last-named judgment, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company

Page 240 U. S. 624

appealed to the corporation court of the City of Staunton, and this appeal was heard and passed upon by said court on the 27th day of February, 1913. So far as the record shows, no notice of such proceeding in the courts of Virginia was given to the defendant until on or about the 14th day of February, 1913, when the said railroad company did notify, in writing, the said Hostetter of the pendency of the said garnishment proceedings on appeal in said corporation court. . . . It is not contended that any formal notice was given to said Hostetter of the garnishment proceedings for the reason that the statute of Virginia under which said proceedings was instituted does not require notice to be given a nonresident of that state of the pendency of the garnishment or suggestion."

Although the railroad had paid in virtue of the judgment rendered in the garnishment proceeding taken as above stated, the court, agreeing in opinion, as we have said, with the trial court, held that the garnishment proceeding and the judgment in it were no protection to the railroad company because there was no power in the Virginia courts to garnishee in that state in the hands of the railroad a sum of money due by it to an employee domiciled in another state without service on such employee in Virginia, and that the full faith and credit clause imposed no duty to enforce a judgment in garnishment proceedings affected with the want of power stated.

In view of the decisions of this Court dealing with the exact situation here presented and expressly holding that the principles upon which the court below based its action were erroneous and could not be upheld consistently with the duty to apply and enforce the full faith and credit clause, we need do no more than cite the cases referred to. Chicago, R.I. & P. Ry. v. Sturm, 174 U. S. 710; Harris v. Balk, 198 U. S. 215; Louis. & Nash. R. Co. v. Deer, 200 U. S. 176.

Page 240 U. S. 625

As it follows that the judgment below, insofar as it compelled the railroad to pay the second time the sum which it had discharged under the Virginia judgment, was erroneous, it must be reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

And it is so ordered.

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