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U.S. Supreme Court

Spokane & Inland Empire R. Co. v. Whitley, 237 U.S. 487 (1915)

Spokane & Inland Empire Railroad Company v. Whitley

No. 206

Argued March 18, 1915

Decided May 17, 1915

237 U.S. 487


Decedent, who met his death in Idaho from the wrongful act of defendant railroad company left a wife and mother who, under the laws of Idaho, were his sole and equal heirs. The wife qualified as administratrix in Tennessee, and, having obtained power from the probate court of that state, to settle with defendant, sued as administratrix in Washington and recovered, without contest, a judgment which was paid. The mother applied in the Tennessee probate court for one-half of the recovery, but the demand was contested by the wife successfully. The mother had already sued in Idaho, and defendant set up the judgment in Washington, but the Idaho state court held that the mother's right was not barred, as the administratrix did not represent her in the Washington suit. Held that

While the right given by the law of one state may be enforceable in another state, if the law is not opposed to its policy, when so enforced, as the liability springs from the law of the enacting state, it is governed thereby.

When suit is brought in another jurisdiction, such provisions of the law of the place of the wrongful act as are merely procedural may be treated as nonessential, but the obligation itself has its source in that law, and if it is an action for damages for wrongful death, that law must be looked to, to determine not only what the obligation is, but to whom it runs and the persons for whose benefit recovery may be had.

The statute of Idaho giving a remedy for the wrongful death, as construed by the highest court of the state, is similar to Lord Campbell's Act in that the recovery is not for the benefit of the estate of the decedent, but for the benefit of his heirs as established by the law of the state.

The attempt of the mother to obtain a part of the proceeds of the Washington judgment did not, as her right to do so was successfully denied, amount to a ratification. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 237 U. S. 488

The Idaho court was not bound to regard the Washington judgment as having been prosecuted by or on behalf of the mother, and, in so doing, did not fail to give to such judgment full faith and credit under the Constitution of the United States.

23 Idaho 642 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the right of enforcement in one a liability created under the statute of another state and the extent to which a judgment recovered by an administratrix may affect a claim by an heir of the intestate, are stated in the opinion. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 237 U. S. 492

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