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DAHN v. DAVIS

decided: April 10, 1922.

DAHN
v.
DAVIS, AGENT, ETC.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT.

Author: Clarke

[ 258 U.S. Page 427]

 MR. JUSTICE CLARKE delivered the opinion of the court.

The petitioner, a railway mail clerk in the employ of the United States, was injured on May 29, 1918, when the car in which he was working was wrecked on the line of the Illinois Central Railroad, then being operated by the Director General of Railroads under the Federal Control Act of March 21, 1918, c. 25, 40 Stat. 451. He brought this suit to recover for his injuries against the Illinois Central Railroad Company and the Director General of Railroads, but the former was dismissed from the case on demurrer. Among other defenses, the Director General of Railroads alleged in his answer that the petitioner, as an employee of the United States, had made application for, and pursuant to its provisions had been paid, compensation under the provisions of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (39 Stat. 742), and that thereby this further action, which is, in effect, against the United States, was barred. A demurrer to this last defense was sustained and the petitioner obtained a verdict on which the District Court entered judgment. On error this judgment was reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals, that court holding that the petitioner had his option under the law to apply for compensation under the Employees' Compensation Act, as he did, or to sue for damages under the Federal Control Act (c. 25, 40 Stat. 451), and that, by electing to accept the benefits of the former, he was barred from prosecuting this action for negligence against the United States under the latter.

Thus, the writ of certiorari brings up for review the question whether, when a government employee, injured on a railroad, operated at the time by the Director General of Railroads, had elected to accept payment under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act, he was thereby barred from prosecuting a suit against the Director General

[ 258 U.S. Page 428]

     of Railroads for negligence causing the injury for which he had been compensated.

James C. Davis, the Agent designated by the President under § 206 of the Transportation Act 1920, c. 91, 41 Stat. 456, has been substituted for the Director General of Railroads as respondent.

It was definitely held in Missouri Pacific R.R. Co. v. Ault, 256 U.S. 554, that, at all of the times here involved, § 10 of the Federal Control Act permitted the Government, through its Director General of Railroads, to be sued for any injury negligently caused on any line of railway in his custody, precisely as a common carrier corporation operating such road might have been sued, and that recovery, if any, would be from the United States.

Thus, plainly the petitioner had the right to sue the Director General of Railroads for negligently injuring him, and if successful his recovery must have been from the United States.

The Federal Employees' Compensation Act, approved September 7, 1916, C. 458, 39 Stat. 742, provides that the United States shall thereafter pay, as therein specified, for the disability or death of any government employee resulting from personal injury sustained while in the performance of his duty. The act provides for a commission to investigate claims and to make awards, but no compensation may be allowed to any person unless he, or some one in his behalf, shall make written claim therefor. Thus, the petitioner, injured, as he was, while in the performance of his duty, was entitled to compensation under the act upon making claim for it.

This reference to the two acts shows that the petitioner had two remedies, each for the same wrong, and both against the United States, and therefore the question for decision takes the form, May the petitioner, after having pursued one of his remedies to a conclusion and payment,

[ 258 U.S. Page 429]

     pursue the other for a second satisfaction of the same wrong ...


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