MISSOURI PACIFIC R. CO. V. AULT, 256 U. S. 554 (1921)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Missouri Pacific R. Co. v. Ault, 256 U.S. 554 (1921)

Missouri Pacific Railroad Company v. Ault

No. 252

Argued March 22, 1921

Decided June 1, 1921

256 U.S. 554


1. A railroad corporation is not liable, either at common law or under § 10 of the Federal Control Act, upon a cause of action (in this case for wages) arising out of the operation of its railroad by the government, through the Director General of Railroads. P. 256 U. S. 557.

2. Under § 10 of the Federal Control Act, if the cause of action arose prior to government control, suit might be instituted or continued to judgment against the owner company as though there had been no taking over by the government, save for the immunity of the physical property from levy and the power of the President to regulate suits in the public interest: if it arose during government operation, the "carrier while under Federal control," meaning in this connection the transportation system, as distinguished from its corporate owner, was still liable and, by legal implication, suit could be brought against the government, or its operating agency, as the legal person responsible under the existing law for such carrier's acts. P. 256 U. S. 561.

3. The order of the Director General of Railroads providing that suit on causes of action arising from the operation of any carrier during government control should be brought against him, and for his substitution as defendant in pending suits of that class brought against the carrier companies, was within his authority. P. 256 U. S. 561.

4. The clause of § 10 of the Federal Control Act declaring that the carriers "shall be subject to all laws and liabilities as common carriers, whether arising under state or Federal laws or at common

Page 256 U. S. 555

law," and the provision of § 15 that the "lawful police regulations of the several states" shall continue unimpaired, do not permit an action against the Director General to recover a penalty. P. 256 U. S. 563.

5. In an action against the Director General of Railroads, the determination whether the liability imposed by a state statute is in the nature of compensation or penalty requires the application of federal law, and not state law, and the decision of the highest court of a state imposing a penalty is reviewable in this Court on writ of error. P. 256 U. S. 564.

140 Ark. 572 reversed; petition for writ of certiorari denied.

Error to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of Arkansas affirming a judgment against the plaintiffs in error in an action to recover wages and a penalty. The facts are stated in the opinion.

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