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U.S. Supreme Court

New York Central & Hudson River R. Co. v. Kinney, 260 U.S. 340 (1922)

New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company v. Kinney

No. 110

Argued November 21, 1922

Decided December 4, 1922

260 U.S. 340




Where a complaint in an action for personal injuries alleges facts which may constitute the wrong either under the state law or the Federal Employers' Liability Act, according to the nature of the employment, an amendment alleging that the parties at the time of injury were engaged in interstate commerce does not introduce a new cause of action, and may be allowed after the two-year limitation prescribed by § 6 of the act has run. P. 260 U. S. 345.

190 App.Div. 967, 231 N.Y. 578, affirmed.

Certiorari to a judgment of the Supreme Court of New York entered on remittitur from the court of appeals affirming a judgment for the plaintiff, Kinney, in an action for personal injuries against the Railroad Company. There were several trials in the New York courts before the amendment passed upon here was made. See 9 Misc. 8; 171 App.Div. 948; 217 N.Y. 325; 185 App.Div. 903; 190 App.Div. 967; 231 N.Y. 578.

Page 260 U. S. 344

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit for personal injuries to the plaintiff, the respondent in this Court, caused by the collision of a train upon which he was employed by the defendant, the petitioner, as an engineer, with a train of the Michigan Central Railroad Company. After several trials and about seven years, and a half after the suit was begun, the plaintiff was allowed to amend his complaint by alleging that, at the time of the collision, the plaintiff and defendant were engaged in interstate commerce. He got the present judgment under the Employers' Liability Act of April 22, 1908, c. 149, 35 Stat. 65, the jury having found that the parties were so engaged. The defendant contended that the amendment introduced a new cause of action, and, under § 6 of the Act, could not be allowed after the two years' limitation had run. See also Act of April 5, 1910,

Page 260 U. S. 345

c. 143, 36 Stat. 291. A writ of certiorari was granted to dispose of this doubt.

The original complaint set forth facts that would have given a cause of action at common law, under the statutes of New York, or the Act of Congress, as one or another law might govern. It alleged a notice, required by the New York statute, and to that extent, pointed to that. The amended complaint, against the petitioner alone, while it introduced the allegations objected to, retained the allegation as to notice, and was treated by the trial Court, seemingly with the approval of the higher Courts of the state, as warranting a recovery under either law as the jury should find. There is nothing in the statutes of the United States to prevent this form of pleading, as is indicated incidentally in the case that we are about to cite upon the main point.

In Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. Co. v. Wulf, 226 U. S. 570, the declaration was by the mother as sole heir and next of kin of an employee of the plaintiff in error, in terms referring to a statute of Kansas giving her right of action for injuries resulting in death. An amendment was allowed, more than two years after the injury, in which the plaintiff declared both as sole beneficiary and next of kin and as administratrix and relied both on the Kansas law and on the Act of Congress. The plaintiff got a judgment under the Act of Congress which was sustained by this Court although the original declaration by the plaintiff could not be attributed to the Employers' Liability Act, because the plaintiff sued only in her personal capacity, and relied for that, as she had to, upon the Kansas law. 226 U.S. 226 U. S. 576. It is true that the fact of the injury arising in interstate commerce was pleaded by the defendant. But it was pleaded as a bar to the action as it then stood, and only makes more marked the changes that the amendment introduced. We do not perceive that the effect of the amendment in that case distinguishes it from

Page 260 U. S. 346

this. It really is a stronger case, because, as we have said, here the declaration was consistent with a wrong under the law of the state or of the United States, as the facts might turn out. The amendment "merely expanded or amplified what was alleged in support of the cause of action already asserted . . . , and was not affected by the intervening lapse of time." Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Renn, 241 U. S. 290, 241 U. S. 293. "The facts constituting the tort were the same, whichever law gave them that effect." Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Koennecke, 239 U. S. 352, 239 U. S. 354. See also St. Louis, San Francisco & Texas Ry. Co. v. Smith, 243 U.S. 630. Of course, an argument can be made on the other side, but when a defendant has had notice from the beginning that the plaintiff sets up and is trying to enforce a claim against it because of specified conduct, the reasons for the statute of limitations do not exist, and we are of opinion that a liberal rule should be applied.

We shall not discuss at length other points that technically are open but that did not induce the granting of the writ, such as the sufficiency of the evidence that the parties were engaged in interstate commerce, the instruction as to assumption of risk, etc. We see no sufficient reason for disturbing the judgment, and it must stand.

Judgment affirmed.

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