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U.S. Supreme Court

Francis v. Southern Pacific Co., 333 U.S. 445 (1948)

Francis v. Southern Pacific Co.

No. 400

Argued February 5, 1948

Decided March 15, 1948

333 U.S. 445


1. Basing jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship, certain minor children sued an interstate railroad in a federal court in Utah to recover damages for the death of their father, an employee of the railroad, who was killed in Utah while riding the railroad as an interstate passenger on a free pass, not in connection with his duties as an employee. The pass provided that the user assumed all risk of injury and absolved the railroad from any liability therefor. Under instructions withholding an issue of the railroad's ordinary negligence and submitting only an issue of its wanton negligence, the jury found for the railroad.

Held: judgment for the railroad affirmed. Pp. 333 U. S. 446-450.

(a) In view of a subsequent decision of the Supreme Court of Utah to similar effect, this Court cannot say that the Circuit Court of Appeals committed plain error in holding that defenses which would have been available in a suit by the decedent were available in a suit by the heirs on a separate and distinct cause of action created by Utah law, and therefore this Court will not overrule that holding under Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U. S. 64. Pp. 333 U. S. 447-448.

(b) Under the Hepburn Act, as amended by the Transportation Act of 1940, the right of an employee of an interstate railroad to recover damages for injuries sustained while riding on a free pass is governed by federal law. Pp. 333 U. S. 448-450.

Page 333 U. S. 446

(c) The well settled federal rule sustaining waivers of liability for ordinary negligence contained in free passes issued to employees by interstate railroads has become part of the warp and woof of the Hepburn Act, as amended by the Transportation Act of 1940. Pp. 333 U. S. 448-450.

2. After a verdict has been rendered in a civil case in a federal court, it is too late to object for the first time that the jury was selected from a panel from which persons who work for daily wages were intentionally and systematically excluded. Pp. 333 U. S. 450-451.

162 F.2d 813, affirmed.

In a suit by minor children of a railroad employee to recover damages for his death while traveling on a free pass as an interstate passenger, the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment for the defendant. 162 F.2d 813. This Court granted certiorari. 332 U.S. 835. Affirmed, p. 333 U. S. 451.

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