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U.S. Supreme Court

Alaska Packers Assn. v. Industrial Accident Comm'n, 294 U.S. 532 (1935)

Alaska Packers Association v.

Industrial Accident Commission of California

No. 465

Argued February 8, 11, 1935

Decided March 11, 1935

294 U.S. 532


1. The terms, obligations and sanctions of a contract are subject, in some measure, to the legislative control of the State in which it is made, even though it is to be performed elsewhere. P. 294 U. S. 540.

2. Where a contract of employment is made in a State, though for work in another jurisdiction and though the parties expressly stipulate to be bound by the workmen's compensation law of that other jurisdiction, if the State where it is made has a legitimate public interest of its own to insure that the workman shall be compensated for injuries suffered in the course of his employment beyond its borders, it is not prevented by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from allowing him its own compensation remedy for such injuries, and from declining to remit him to his remedy in the other jurisdiction or to substitute that remedy in its own forum. Cf. Bradford Electric Light Co. v. Clapper, 286 U. S. 145. Pp. 294 U. S. 540-542.

The improbability that workers employed in California for seasonal occupation in Alaska, 3,000 miles away, and not to be paid until their return, would be able to apply for compensation when injured in Alaska, or, once returned to California, would be able to go back to Alaska and successfully prosecute their claims, and the probability that, if without a remedy in California courts, they

Page 294 U. S. 533

would be remediless and likely to become public charges on that State, suggest that California has a legitimate public interest in imposing liability for such injuries upon the employer, and in providing a remedy for such employees available in California.

3. Legislation affecting the status of employer and employee, within the scope of acknowledged state power and not unreasonable in its exercise, cannot be condemned because it curtails the power of the individual to contract. P. 294 U. S. 543.

4. The extent to which the statute of one State may qualify or deny rights asserted under the statute of another presents a question under the full faith and credit clause which this Court, upon review of a judgment of a state court, must determine for itself, equally whether the statute of the forum is set up as a defense to a suit brought under the foreign statute or the foreign statute is set up as a defense to a suit or proceedings under the local statute. P. 294 U. S. 547.

5. A conflict thus arising is to be resolved not by automatically compelling the courts of each State to subordinate its own statutes to those of the other, but by appraising the governmental interests of each jurisdiction and determining the question accordingly. P. 294 U. S. 547.

6. Upon the facts of this case, which involves a conflict in the California courts between the workmen's compensation laws of California and Alaska, the interest of Alaska is not shown to be superior to that of California, and therefore the Alaska statute cannot be given the effect of denying to the courts of California the right to apply the law of that State. Pp. 294 U. S. 544, 294 U. S. 550.

In so deciding, the Court assumes that, by R.S., §§ 905, 906, the command of the full faith and credit clause is made applicable to territorial statutes with the same force and effect as that of the constitutional provision with respect to statutes of the States.

1 Cal.2d 250, 34 P.2d 716, affirmed.

Appeal from a judgment affirming an award made by the Industrial Accident Commission of California under the workmen's compensation law of that State.

Page 294 U. S. 537

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