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U.S. Supreme Court

St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Ry. Co. v. Craft, 237 U.S. 648 (1915)

St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern

Railway Company v. Craft

No. 776

Argued May 12, 1915

Decided June 1, 1915

237 U.S. 648


In this case, as there was uncontradicted evidence that decedent survived his injuries, although only for something more than half an hour, and that the injuries were such as to cause extreme pain if he remained conscious, and there was conflicting evidence as to whether he did remain conscious, those questions were properly submitted to the jury, and the question for this Court is not which way the evidence preponderated, but whether there was evidence from which the jury could reasonably find that decedent did endure conscious pain during the period between his injury and death.

While, in this case, there was evidence to go to the jury on those questions, generally such pain and suffering as are substantially contemporaneous with death, or mere incidents to it, afford no estimation or award of damages under such statutes as the Employers' Liability Act.

By the common law, the death of a human being, although wrongfully caused, affords no basis for a recovery of damages, and a right of action for personal injuries dies with the person injured; in cases under the Employers' Liability Act, the right of recovery depends entirely upon that statute, the state statutes being superseded thereby. Under the Employers' Liability Act, as originally enacted in 1908, chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 237 U. S. 649

there was no provision for the survival of the right given to the injured person, and the right as at common law died with him, but under the act as amended in 1910 that right of action survives to the personal representatives of the decedent for the benefit of the widow, husband, children, parents or dependent next of kin, as specified in § 9 of the act as amended.

A provision brought into a federal statute by way of amendment, expressing the deliberate will of Congress, must be given effect, and, construing §§ 1 and 9 of the Employers' Liability Act, as amended, together, the personal representative of a deceased employee is to recover, on the part of the designated beneficiaries, not only such damages as will compensate them for their own pecuniary loss, but also such damages as will be reasonably compensatory for the loss and suffering of decedent while he lived.

Such a recovery is not a double recovery for a single wrong, but a single recovery for a double wrong.

Quaere whether, under the final clause of § 9 of the Employers' Liability Act, as amended in 1910, providing that there shall be only one recovery for one injury, the personal representative of a deceased employee can recover where there has been a recovery by decedent in his lifetime.

The provisions in § 9 of the Employers' Liability Act, as amended in 1910, that there shall be only one recovery for one injury does not restrict the personal representative of a decedent who suffered pain after the injury and before death to one basis of recovery to the exclusion of tho other, or require him to make a choice between them; it does, however, limit him to one recovery of damages for both, and thus avoid needless litigation in separate actions.

While reports of Committees of the different Houses of Congress in regard to bills in their charge cannot be taken as giving to the act as passed a meaning not fairly within its words, they may be persuasive as showing that its words should not be wrongly construed.

The amount of a verdict for damages for suffering, although apparently large, in this case $5,000 for pain endured during a period of thirty minutes, involves only questions of fact, and is not reviewable here under § 237, Judicial Code. The power, and with it the duty and responsibility, of dealing with such questions rests upon the courts below.

171 S.W. 1185 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the construction and application of the Employers' Liability Act of 1908 and the chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 237 U. S. 650

Amendment of 1910 and the right of the administrator of an employee killed by negligence of the employer to recover not only for the death of, but also for the pain and suffering endured by, decedent, are stated in the opinion. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 237 U. S. 653

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