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U.S. Supreme Court

Staten Island Rapid Transit Ry. Co. v. Phoenix Indem. Co., 281 U.S. 98 (1930)

Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway Company

v. Phoenix Indemnity Company

No. 307

Argued March 7, 1930

Decided March 17, 1930

281 U.S. 98


Under the Workmen's Compensation Law of New York, § 15, subdivisions 8 and 9, when an employee, in the course of his employment, suffers an injury causing death, and there are no persons entitled to compensation from the employer, the employer or his insurer shall be required by award to make payments of $500 each to the state treasurer for two special funds, which are used in furnishing additional compensation and vocational training to certain classes of disabled employees (see Sheehan Co. v. Shuler, 265 U. S. 371). These provisions are applicable where the death was due to the act of a stranger to the employment and the right of the employee's dependent to compensation under the Compensation Law was waived by collection of an equal or greater sum through settlement of an action for negligence in causing the death, brought by the decedent's personal representative, on behalf of the dependent, under § 130 of the Decedent's Estate Law. In such case, by § 29 of the Compensation Law, as amended, an insurer who has paid the

Page 281 U. S. 99

awards under § 15, subdivisions 8 and 9, may obtain reimbursement in an action against the alleged wrongdoer, in which action, however, the latter is at liberty to contest both his own liability in the negligence action and the validity of the awards as against the insurer.


1. That, in subjecting one who has made restitution under the wrongful death statute to this added liability of indemnifying the employer's insurer for payments to the special funds, § 29 does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. P 281 U. S. 106 et seq.

2. A state does not exhaust its power to compel redress for a wrongful death by providing for recovery of the loss sustained by the dependents or next of kin of the decedent; it may exact penalties in addition. P. 281 U. S. 106.

3. The mode in which penalties shall be enforced and the disposition of the amounts collected are matters of legislative discretion. P. 281 U. S. 107.

4. In this instance, there is no reason why the state may not penalize the wrongdoer by compelling him to indemnify the employer and his insurance carrier for payments properly required of them and made to the state, the liability for such payments having arisen from the wrongful act. P. 281 U. S. 107.

5. Inasmuch as the provisions for the creation and application of the special funds, and for requiring the payments by employers and their insurance carriers to maintain them, have been sustained as an appropriate and constitutional part of the plan of the Workmen's Compensation Law (Sheehan Co. v. Shuler, 265 U. S. 371), an insurer thus compelled to pay because of a death caused by wrongful act is not a stranger to that act, and his indemnification by the wrongdoer is a natural and reasonable requirement in consequence of that act. P. 281 U. S. 107.

6. Section 29 does not deny equal protection of the laws, since it operates uniformly against all wrongdoers in like circumstances -- i.e., whenever awards, as required by § 15, subdivisions 8 and 9, have been made against the employer or his insurer and have been paid to the state treasurer. P. 281 U. S. 108.

251 N.Y. 127 affirmed.

Appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court of New York, entered on remittitur from the Court of Appeals. The case was an action by the Indemnity Company under § 29 of the Workmen's Compensation Law, begun in the Supreme Court by the filing of an agreed statement of facts and submitted to the Appellate Division, 244 App.Div. 346, was in favor of the plaintiff, and was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

Page 519 U. S. 103

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