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U.S. Supreme Court

Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v. Industrial Accident Comm'n, 306 U.S. 493 (1939)

Pacific Employers Ins. Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission

No. 158

Argued December 12, 1938

Decided March 27, 1939

306 U.S. 493


1. A State is not bound, apart from the compulsion of the full faith and credit clause, to enforce the laws of another State, nor, by its own statute, may it determine the choice of law to be applied in the other. P. 306 U. S. 500.

2. An employee of a Massachusetts corporation, resident in Massachusetts and regularly employed in that State under a contract of employment entered into there, was injured in the course of his employment while temporarily in California. The Massachusetts workmen's compensation statute purported to give an exclusive

Page 306 U. S. 494

remedy, even though the injury was suffered outside of the State. Held, the courts of California were not bound by the full faith and credit clause of the Federal Constitution to apply, contrary to the policy of their State, the Massachusetts statute, or to recognize it as a defense to a claim of the employee under the workmen's compensation statute of California, which, because the injury was suffered in the course of employment there, also purported to be applicable and to give an exclusive remedy. Bradford Electric Light Co. v. Clapper, 286 U. S. 145, distinguished. P. 306 U. S. 501.

That the application of the Massachusetts statute in this case would be obnoxious to the policy of California sufficiently appears: not only does the California statute conflict with the Massachusetts statute in respect of its application to employees injured in California, but it also expressly provides that "No contract, rule or regulation shall exempt the employer from liability for the compensation fixed by this Act," and further, the Supreme Court of California, in its opinion in this case, has declared it to be the policy of the State, as expressed in its Constitution and compensation Act, to apply its own provisions for compensation to the exclusion of all others, and holds that

"It would be obnoxious to that policy to deny persons who have been injured in this State the right to apply for compensation when to do so might require physicians and hospitals to go to another State to collect charges for medical care and treatment given to such persons."

3. The nature of the federal union of States, to which are reserved some of the attributes of sovereignty, precludes resort to the full faith and credit clause as a means for compelling a State to substitute the statutes of other States for its own statutes dealing with a subject matter concerning which it is competent to legislate. P. 306 U. S. 501.

4. The full faith and credit clause does not require a State to substitute for its own statute, applicable to persons and events within it, the conflicting statute of another State, even though that statute is of controlling force in the courts of the its enactment with respect to the same persons and events -- at least in the absence of action by Congress prescribing the extra-state effect to be given state statutes. P. 306 U. S. 502.

5. This Court must determine for itself how far the full faith and credit clause compels the qualification or denial of rights asserted under the laws of one State -- that of the forum -- by the statute of another State. P. 306 U. S. 502.

10 Cal.2d 567, 75 P.2d 1058, affirmed.

Page 306 U. S. 495

Certiorari, 305 U.S. 563, to review the affirmance of a judgment denying a petition of the insurer of an employer to set aside an award of compensation made to an employee by the state commission.

Page 306 U. S. 497

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