MR. JUSTICE RUTLEDGE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The primary question is whether the coverage of the Federal Employers' Liability Act and the Boiler Inspection Act
In 1941 petitioner Tom Urie filed suit under the Federal Employers' Liability Act against respondent Thompson, trustee of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. According to petitioner's allegations, he had been employed as a fireman on steam locomotives of the interstate Missouri Pacific for roughly thirty years. In 1940 he had been forced to cease work by a pulmonary disease diagnosed
The trial court sustained respondent's demurrer to the complaint. On appeal the Missouri Supreme Court held that the action could not be maintained by virtue of the Federal Employers' Liability Act alone, for the reason that respondent could not have "anticipated plaintiff's injury, and . . . therefore . . . the petition does not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action for negligence under the Federal Employers Liability Act." 352 Mo. 211, 219. The court felt, however, that the claimed malfunctioning of the locomotives' sanders was in substance an allegation of breach of § 2 of the Boiler Inspection Act and that, since proof of breach of the latter Act would support a recovery under the Federal
On remand petitioner amended his complaint to charge specifically violations of the Boiler Inspection Act. Section 2 of that Act, as amended, makes it "unlawful for any carrier to use of permit to be used on its line any locomotive unless said locomotive, its boiler, tender, and all parts and appurtenances thereof are in proper condition and safe to operate in the service to which the same are put, that the same may be employed in the active service of such carrier without unnecessary peril to life or limb. . . ." 45 U.S.C. § 23.
The case was tried to a jury, under instructions that negligence was not in issue and that petitioner should prevail if he proved that he had contracted silicosis by reason of respondent's breach of an "absolute and continuing duty to have such locomotive engines and all their parts and appurtenances thereof, in proper condition and safe to operate . . . without unnecessary peril to the life of Tom Urie. . . ." The jury found for petitioner in the amount of $30,000.
Upon respondent's appeal the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the judgment entered on this verdict. 357 Mo. 738. Nothing that on the former review it did not "treat with a contention that `silicosis' is not an evil at which the Act is aimed," id. at 746 the court concluded that the Boiler Inspection Act "is aimed at promoting safety from accidental injury, as distinguished from injury due to the gradual inhalation of harmful dusts." Id. at 749. It was to review the state supreme court's successive constructions of the Federal Employers' Liability and Boiler Inspection Acts that our writ was issued.
Two preliminary contentions first engage our attention. We are met at the outset by the question whether, without regard to the legal sufficiency of petitioner's claim under either Act, that claim is barred as to both Acts by operation of the Federal Employers' Liability Act's statute of limitations.
Urie filed suit on November 25, 1941. Under the terms of the then prevailing three-year statute of limitations,
In our view, however, neither of the outlined constructions of the statute of limitations can be sustained. For, if we assume that Congress intended to include occupational diseases in the category of injuries compensable under the Federal Employers' Liability and Boiler Inspection Acts, such mechanical analysis of the "accrual" of petitioner's injury — whether breath by breath, or at one unrecorded moment in the progress of the disease — can only serve to thwart the congressional purpose.
If Urie were held barred from prosecuting this action because he must be said, as a matter of law, to have contracted silicosis prior to November 25, 1938, it would be clear that the federal legislation afforded Urie only a delusive remedy. It would mean that at some past moment in time, unknown and inherently unknowable even in retrospect, Urie was charged with knowledge of the slow and tragic disintegration of his lungs; under this view Urie's failure to diagnose within the applicable statute of limitations a disease whose symptoms had not yet obtruded on his consciousness would constitute waiver of his right to compensation at the ultimate day of discovery and disability.
We do not think the humane legislative plan intended such consequences to attach to blameless ignorance. Nor do we think those consequences can be reconciled with the traditional purposes of statutes of limitations, which conventionally require the assertion of claims within a specified period of time after notice of the invasion of legal rights. The record before us is clear that Urie became too ill to work in May of 1940 and that diagnosis of his condition was accomplished in the following weeks. There is no suggestion that Urie should have known he had silicosis at any earlier date. "It follows that no specific date of contact with the substance can be charged with being the date of injury, inasmuch as the injurious consequences of the exposure are the product of a period of time rather than a point of time; consequently the afflicted employee can be held to be `injured' only when the accumulated effects of the deleterious substance manifest themselves. . . ." Associated Indemnity Corp. v. Industrial Accident Commission, 124 Cal.App. 378, 381. The quoted language, used in a state workmen's compensation case, seems to us applicable in every relevant particular to the construction of the federal statute of limitations with which we are here concerned. Accordingly we agree with the view expressed by the Missouri
We may readily dispose of another preliminary question concerning the issues which are now properly before us. Respondent argues, somewhat surprisingly, that the sufficiency of petitioner's original claim for negligence involved in the first appeal is not properly here, since it was neither raised nor considered on the second appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court. The short answer is that petitioner has brought the claim to this Court at his first opportunity; and it was not necessary for him to relitigate that claim a second time through the state courts in order to preserve it for our consideration on review of the final judgment rendered in the cause.
From the opinions of the state supreme court we know judicially
Although the Missouri Supreme Court's disposition of the first appeal precluded review here at that time of the ruling adverse to petitioner, Urie did not waive that question by amending his complaint, in conformity with the court's mandate, to state his claim more specifically in terms of the Boiler Inspection Act or by proceeding with trial on that theory. As the case then stood, this was his only remaining chance for success unless he was to waive it, ask for final judgment to be entered against him on the general negligence issue, and rely solely upon securing review of that judgment and reversal by this Court.
Whatever the effect of the state supreme court's ruling for further proceedings in the state courts,
Accordingly, even if it should be held that petitioner has stated no claim under the Boiler Inspection Act, the judgment now in review cannot stand unless the Missouri Supreme Court rightly concluded, on the first appeal, that petitioner's original complaint stated no cause of action for negligence under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, considered apart from any effect of the Boiler Inspection Act. That question is properly presented and to it we now turn.
Section 1 of the Federal Employers' Liability Act provides:
The section does not define negligence, leaving that question to be determined, as the Missouri Supreme Court said, "by the common law principles as established and applied in the federal courts." 352 Mo. at 218. Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, has no application. What constitutes negligence for the statute's purposes is a federal question, not varying in accordance with the differing conceptions of negligence applicable under state and local laws for other purposes. Federal decisional law formulating and applying the concept governs.
Of course if silicosis caused by the employment is not an "injury" within the statute's intended coverage, no cause of action could be stated for that injury under the statute, even though the allegations of fault and causation
Upon the assumption that silicosis when caused by the employment is a compensable employee "injury," the adequacy of petitioner's claim turns solely on whether his original complaint alleged facts raising a triable issue of negligence. We think that under the standards heretofore set and followed by this Court,
Those facts have been briefly, though only partially, summarized above. They charged that respondent used in the locomotives' sanders a sand material containing a very high percentage of silica or silicon dioxide; that often the material would come to the rails from the sanders in excessive and unnecessary quantities and would there be ground to dust; that the dust containing "such usual and unusual quantity of silican [sic] dioxide would come" into the engine cabs and, "frequently of unusual quantity," would be breathed by petitioner; and that respondent "knew, or by the exercise of due care should have known," that the sand contained the high percentage of silicon dioxide; that "the dust would form and frequently of excessive quantity because of said sanders,"
These and other allegations sufficiently charged respondent with knowingly having used, in excessive quantities
To sustain the contrary view, however, the Missouri Supreme Court seems to have ruled as a matter of law that respondent had adhered to the customary standards of the trade, stressing the admission in petitioner's complaint that the sanding devices alleged to have been faultily adjusted were of the kind ordinarily used throughout the railroad industry. Contrary to the court's apparent conclusion, this obviously was not an admission that respondent had complied with the usual standards of the trade. There was neither admission by petitioner nor evidence of anything more than that respondent's sanders were "all of the usual and customary type" which, if kept properly adjusted by ordinary care, would not have allowed such large and excessive quantities of silica dust to escape, concentrate in the cab, and be breathed by petitioner. There was no admission that other railroads generally or in the region customarily used such high silica content materials for sanding purposes or that, if they did, they did not take steps to minimize potentially harmful effects. Moreover, assuming the premise that maintenance of trade standards negatives negligence, we cannot grasp its significance in this context absent any indication
But we also reject the premise, for we think that negligence, within the meaning of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, attached if respondent "knew, or by the exercise of due care should have known," that prevalent standards of conduct were inadequate to protect petitioner and similarly situated employees. Cf. Hill v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 336 U.S. 911, reversing 229 N.C. 236. See also Sadowski v. Long Island R. Co., 292 N.Y. 448, 456-457.
Accordingly we think the state court's ruling that the facts stated in the original complaint were insufficient to constitute a charge of negligence on respondent's part, within the meaning of the Federal Employers' Liability Act considered apart from the effect of the Boiler Inspection Act, was wrong and must be overruled. What was said by the New York Court of Appeals in Sadowski v. Long Island R. Co., supra at 455-456, in sustaining a recovery for silicosis under the Act, fits very closely the facts of this case and represents, in our opinion, the correct view:
The question remains whether silicosis is an "injury" within the meaning of that term as used in the Federal Employers' Liability Act. It is a novel one for this Court. But we think silicosis is within the statute's coverage when it results from the employer's negligence. Considerations arising from the breadth of the statutory language, the Act's humanitarian purposes, its accepted standard of liberal construction in order to accomplish those objects, the absence of anything in the legislative
We recognize of course that, when the statute was enacted, Congress' attention was focused primarily upon injuries and death resulting from accidents on interstate railroads.
The language is as broad as could be framed: "any person suffering injury while he is employed"; "such injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier"; "by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances," etc. On its face, every injury suffered by any employee while employed by reason of the carrier's negligence was made compensable. The wording was not restrictive as to the employees covered; the cause of injury, except that it must constitute negligence attributable to the carrier; or the particular kind of injury resulting.
To read into this all-inclusive wording a restriction as to the kinds of employees covered, the degree of negligence required, or the particular sorts of harms inflicted, would be contradictory to the wording, the remedial and humanitarian purpose, and the constant and established
We recognize, with respondent, that the Federal Employers' Liability Act is founded on common-law concepts of negligence and injury, subject to such qualifications as Congress has imported into those terms. If respondent were right in suggesting that the common law does not recognize occupational disease as a category of compensable injury, he would lend substance to the argument that Congress' use of the word "injury" was less broad than the word's surface connotation indicates. However, although the contrary view has been advanced,
But decisions construing "personal injury" — more nearly akin to the simple "injury" of the Federal Employers' Liability Act — are in conflict. Thus the Supreme
Consonant with the Massachusetts statute is the one compensation act the meaning of which may be thought directly to bear on congressional use of the word "injury" in the federal negligence statute with which we are today concerned. The Federal Employees' Compensation Act of May 30, 1908, 35 Stat. 556, approved less than two months after the Federal Employers' Liability Act, provided compensation for certain classes of federal employees "injured in the course of . . . employment." Under this statute compensation was awarded for, inter alia, inhalation of dust and fine scale,
While no decision of this Court involving the Federal Employers' Liability Act has dealt specifically with silicosis, the New York Court of Appeals, as we have indicated above, has sustained recovery under the Act for that disease when resulting from the carrier's negligence. This was done in circumstances not substantially different from those alleged in petitioner's original complaint, except that the facts involved no possible application of the Boiler Inspection Act. Sadowski v. Long Island R. Co., supra. Moreover, other state and federal decisions have authorized recovery under the Act for injuries not caused by accidental or violent means. These include Shelton v. Thomson, 148 F.2d 1; 157 F.2d 709, where recovery was permitted for carbon monoxide poisoning; B. & O.R. Co. v. Branson, 128 Md. 678, reversed on other grounds, 242 U.S. 623, in which recovery was allowed for paint poisoning. Cf. C.R.I. & P.R. Co. v. Cheek, 105 Okla. 91. Not all of these decisions could be sustained if the statutory term "injury" were held to require that the harm suffered from the employer's negligence must be confined to that inflicted by "external, violent and accidental" means or be an "accidental injury," as respondent's narrow view of the statute's coverage seems to contemplate.
We would be most hesitant to adopt a construction of "injury" as used in this Act which would overrule the decisions last cited or seriously impair their authority. We think they were made in the spirit the statute contemplated for its administration and application. That spirit is one not in conformity with importing nice distinctions in applying the Act's broad and general terms or cutting down their full scope by inference or implication.
In our view, when the employer's negligence impairs or destroys an employee's health by requiring him to work
Accordingly it follows, as the Missouri Supreme Court assumed on the first appeal, that petitioner's original complaint did not fail in stating a cause of action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act for want of allegation of sufficient injury. Petitioner was entitled to go to trial at that time without restriction requiring him to show violation of the Boiler Inspection Act.
This conclusion, if it were all that is involved in the case, would compel reversal of the state supreme court's decision and remand for trial upon the original complaint. However, it remains to consider the effect of the Boiler Inspection Act and whether the verdict rendered for petitioner under that Act, in conjunction with the Federal Employers' Liability Act, should be allowed to stand.
By virtue of the course taken by the case in the state courts, the Missouri Supreme Court did not squarely hold that silicosis was not an injury within the coverage of the Federal Employers' Liability Act considered apart from the Boiler Inspection Act. As the case took shape that question did not arise on the first appeal. And by
But by its own terms the Boiler Inspection Act, like the Safety Appliance Acts,
This conclusion stems, not from any express statutory language, but by implication from §§ 3 and 4 of the Federal Employers' Liability Act. 45 U.S.C. §§ 53, 54, which bar pleadings of, respectively, contributory negligence and assumption of risk "in any case where the violation by such common carrier of any statute enacted for the safety of employees contributed to the injury or death of such employee."
In this view the Safety Appliance Acts, together with the Boiler Inspection Act, are substantively if not in form amendments to the Federal Employers' Liability Act. They dispense, for the purposes of employees' suits, with the necessity of proving that violations of the safety statutes constitute negligence; and making proof of such violations is effective to show negligence as a matter of law. Thus taken, as has been the consistent practice, the Boiler Inspection and Safety Appliance Acts cannot be regarded as statutes wholly separate from and independent of the Federal Employers' Liability Act. They are rather supplemental to it, having the purpose and effect of facilitating employee recovery, not of restricting such recovery or making it impossible.
The congressional purpose underlying the Boiler Inspection Act is basically the same as that underlying the Safety Appliance Acts and the Employers' Liability Act. In requiring that the boiler, and, not long after, that the entire locomotive, be maintained "in proper condition and safe to operate," Congress by its own statement was attempting to insure that such equipment "be employed in . . . active service . . . without unnecessary peril to life or limb. . . ." 45 U.S.C. § 23. Certain requirements of the Safety Appliance Acts, as for example the use of the automatic coupler, 45 U.S.C. § 2, are made mandatory by express statutory language. Others, like those of the Boiler Inspection Act, simply outline a general standard which may be more specifically articulated in rules enunciated by the carriers subject to the approval
As with the Employers' Liability Act, we do not doubt that the prime purpose of the Boiler Inspection Act was the protection of railroad employees and perhaps also of passengers and the public at large, cf. Fairport, P. & E.R. Co. v. Meredith, 292 U.S. 589, from injury due to industrial accident. The safety of all those affected by railroading was uppermost in the legislative mind. But again, as with the Employers' Liability Act, we cannot accept the view that protection of employee health is not embraced by the congressional plan.
In the Napier case the question for decision was the validity of Wisconsin and Georgia regulations requiring locomotives to be equipped with, respectively, cab curtains and an automatic fire door. Each state regulation was challenged as an invasion of power over interstate commerce which Congress, through enactment and amendment of the Boiler Inspection Act, had seen fit to exercise. Each regulation was defended as being directed to protection of the health, rather than the safety, of railroad employees. The unanimous Court, speaking through Mr. Justice Brandeis, struck down both regulations "because the Boiler Inspection Act, as we construe it, was intended to occupy the field. The broad scope of the authority conferred upon the Commission leads to that conclusion. Because the standard set by the Commission must prevail, requirements by the States are precluded, however commendable or however different their purpose." 272 U.S. at 613.
This last-quoted sentence merely recognized that theretofore the Interstate Commerce Commission had not regulated with an eye to employee health; it did not and does not support the view that employee health was thought not to be within the compass of the Act, as other language in Napier, 272 U.S. at 611-613, makes amply clear:
Thus the Boiler Inspection Act vests in the Interstate Commerce Commission rule-making power adequate to protect employees against disease as well as against accident; and the power to make rules for employee health has been exercised.
In view of these considerations, it cannot be said that the Commission's rule-making power is confined to safeguarding
We hold that petitioner's injury is one compensable under the Boiler Inspection Act. We hold further, in the light of the trial instructions and such evidence as appears in the record before us,
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, concurring in part.
At the risk of wearisome reiteration it is relevant to say again that the common-law concept of negligence is an antiquated and uncivilized basis for working out rights and duties for disabilities and deaths inevitably due to the conduct of modern industry. In the conscious or unconscious endeavor not to have the human cost of industry fall with cruel injustice upon workers and their families, the law of negligence gives rise to endless casuistry. So long as the gamble of an occasional heavy verdict is not replaced by the security of a modern system of insurance, courts must continue to apply the notion of negligence in situations for which it was never intended. Therefore, if a claim is made that an injury is causally related to a carrier's failure to maintain standards of care appropriate for employment on a railroad, the Federal Employers' Liability Act entitles an employee to establish that claim to a jury's satisfaction. Damages are recoverable
On the other hand, I agree with the Missouri Supreme Court that occupational diseases cannot be fitted into the category of "accidents" for which the Boiler Inspection Act devised a scheme of regulation and a basis of liability. 36 Stat. 913, as amended, 45 U.S.C. §§ 22-34. I think I appreciate the humane impulse which seeks to bring occupational diseases within such a regime. But due regard for the limits of judicial interpretation precludes such free-handed application of a statute to situations outside its language and its purpose. To do so, moreover, is, I believe, a disservice to the humane ends which are sought to be promoted. Legislation is needed which will effectively meet the social obligations which underlie the incidence of occupational disease. See National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946, 9 & 10 Geo. 6, 488, particularly Part IV. The need for such legislation becomes obscured and the drive for it retarded if encouragement is given to the thought that there are now adequate remedies for occupational diseases in callings subject to Congressional control. The result of the present decision is to secure for this petitioner the judgment which the jury awarded him. It does not secure a proper system for dealing with occupational diseases.
I would reverse this judgment and remand the case to the Supreme Court of Missouri for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
MR. JUSTICE REED, MR. JUSTICE JACKSON, and MR. JUSTICE BURTON join in this opinion.
Section 2 was first enacted in 1911 to cover the locomotive boiler and its appurtenances, 36 Stat. 913. It was broadened in 1915 to include the entire locomotive and tender, 38 Stat. 1192; and see the 1924 amendment. 43 Stat. 659.
The second amended complaint, to which the demurrer involved in the first appeal applied, did not mention specifically either the Federal Employers' Liability Act or the Boiler Inspection Act, but set forth facts generally from which the state supreme court's conclusions concerning the applicability of those acts were drawn.
"(3) Although the defendant was using sandy substance containing such quantity of silica, and using said locomotives that would cause and allow large quantities of silica dust containing silica to be created and come into the cab and be inhaled, yet defendant negligently failed to warn the plaintiff and negligently failed to furnish him with a respirator or device to prevent the inhalation of said silica dust."
The inference drawn by the court was, an effect, either a rule of law that using maladjusted sanders could not be negligence even though caused, as petitioner expressly alleged, by respondent's want of due care; or alternatively a ruling, as matter of law, that to constitute a sufficient showing of negligence the allegation of maladjustment must specifically state the types and causes of it. Neither conclusion accords with applicable federal standards in such cases. If the latter was the court's intention, the matter was at most one for permitting amendment or cure by proof if the former, the conclusion ran in the teeth both of federal and of generally accepted standards for showing negligence.
When the Federal Employees' Compensation Act of May 30, 1908, was superseded in 1916 by the broader and still extant general federal employee compensation system, 5 U.S.C. § 751 et seq., the statute as originally enacted provided compensation for "disability" or "personal injury" without further qualification or definition. 39 Stat. 742. Proposals specifically to include occupational disease were rejected, at least in part, for the reasons that at the committee hearings "there was considerable difficulty in defining the term `occupational disease'; and it was also called to our attention that in quite a number of cases in a number of States the court held this language which we have in the bill would cover occupational diseases in certain cases — at least a number of them. . . ." 53 Cong. Rec. 10899. In 1924 the 1916 Act was amended, 43 Stat. 389, "to correct two rulings of the Comptroller General of the United States. . . ." H.R. Rep. No. 280, 68th Cong., 1st Sess. 1. One of the rulings remedied was that occupational diseases were not included within the 1916 Act; the other ruling was that the Comptroller General had power to review decisions of the United States Employees' Compensation Commission. As to the first of these errors, the House Judiciary Committee, in reporting out the 1924 amendment, expressly referred to its 1916 report, H.R. Rep. No. 678, 64th Cong., 1st Sess. 7, to show that in drafting the 1916 Act "the committee intended to remedy the inadequacy of the act of May 30, 1908, with reference to `occupational diseases.'" H.R. Rep. No. 280, 68th Cong., 1st Sess. 3. See 65 Cong. Rec. 8154.
The quoted statutory phrase was held to acknowledge creation of a cause of action "under the Federal Employers' Liability Act" for personal injury to an employee due to violation of the Safety Appliance Acts, 45 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., since, "By the phrase `any statute enacted for the safety of employees' the Congress evidently intended to embrace its Safety Appliance Acts." Moore v. C. & O.R. Co., 291 U.S. 205, 210. Similarly an employee injury suit alleging violation of the Boiler Inspection Act is brought "under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. . . ." Lilly v. Grand Trunk R. Co., 317 U.S. 481, 485.
It is of no consequence that Rule 120 may not have been specifically called to the jury's attention. Lilly v. Grand Trunk R. Co., 317 U.S. 481, 488-489. It is urged upon us that Rule 120 was designed to insure an adequate auxiliary braking system rather than to protect employees against silicosis, and hence that, notwithstanding respondent's breach of the rule and the governing statute, petitioner cannot complain of an injury flowing from the breach which was not the injury the Interstate Commerce Commission sought to guard against. We do not dispute the narrow scope of Rule 120; nor do we doubt that conventional tort doctrine imposes absolute liability for violation of a statutory duty only where the injury is one the statute was designed to prevent. See, e.g., DiCaprio v. New York Central R. Co., 231 N.Y. 94; but cf. the remarks of Mr. Justice Brewer in Atchison, T. & S.F.R. Co. v. Reesman, 60 F. 370, 373. But we think the liability imposed by the Boiler Inspection Act is of broader character and that the correct rule is the one laid down in Louisville & N.R. Co. v. Layton, 243 U.S. 617, 621, which this Court has had repeated occasion to apply in connection with the Safety Appliance Acts: "The language of the acts and the authorities we have cited make it entirely clear that the liability in damages to employees for failure to comply with the law springs from its being made unlawful to use cars not equipped as required, — not from the position the employee may be in or the work which he may be doing at the moment when he is injured. This effect can be given to the acts and their wise and humane purpose can be accomplished only by holding, as we do, that carriers are liable to employees in damages whenever the failure to obey these safety appliance laws is the proximate cause of injury to them when engaged in the discharge of duty." See Davis v. Wolfe, 263 U.S. 239, 243; Coray v. Southern Pacific Co., 335 U.S. 520, 522-523; Brady v. Terminal R. Assn., 303 U.S. 10, 16; Swinson v. Chicago, St. P., M. & O.R. Co., 294 U.S. 529, 531; Fairport, P. & E.R. Co. v. Meredith, 292 U.S. 589. Cf. Minneapolis & St. Louis R. Co. v. Gotschall, 244 U.S. 66; St. Louis & S.F.R. Co. v. Conarty, 238 U.S. 243.