which it is said that "Doubtless this act was passed to clarify the situation resulting from conflicting systems of relief", yet the conclusion was reached that such purpose may not be served unless the legislature shall thereafter expressly sanction the adoption of its laws as to compensation by the federal government. This seems to be somewhat illogical. The obvious intent of the act was to supply to employees on government property a remedy not previously afforded, and the act does not suggest that its benefits shall be contingent upon the formal approval thereof by the state legislatures. "If the * * * act * * * has any relevancy * * * it is to dispel any doubt * * * that persons injured in such territory shall be assured of the remedies provided by state law" (dissent in State v. Rainier National Park, supra). It is clear that the state act expressly extended its benefits to Pennsylvania employees temporarily beyond its territorial limits which would include, inter alia, the navy yard. The Congressional Act with equal clarity granted to the state authority the right to apply its compensation laws to employees engaged on government land within the exterior boundaries of the state. Can it be logically found that these laws are ineffectual because one was adopted before the other, or because the state law was passed first and did not expressly adopt the jurisdiction granted in the federal act, when the state act already covered the situation? The answer to that question is to be found in the purposes and the history of the legislation.
The compensation act of 1915 applied only to employees' injuries sustained in this state, and not to those beyond the jurisdictional limits of the state, including the navy yard. Haggerty v. O'Brien Bros., 21 Luz.L.Reg.Rep. 7. By amendment the jurisdiction was extended to accidents to Pennsylvania employees who were temporarily employed beyond the territorial limits of the state. The question as to whether such territorial jurisdiction included areas under United States sovereignty was, however, not settled. Congress therefore passed the Act of 1928 granting jurisdiction to the states in law cases, but without expressly including the remedies provided by the workmen's compensation laws. Finally the Act of 1936 was passed expressly and comprehensively granting to the workmen's compensation authorities of the states the right to apply the compensation laws to employees engaged on government property within the exterior boundaries of the state in which the property is located. Thus it would appear from the development of the law that the primary objective -- the extension of the compensation laws to employees on federal property -- has, by these successive steps, been fully accomplished.
The old common law action, which by virtue of the law of negligence and of the fellow servant doctrine, has been generally deemed inadequate to protect the rights of employees. It should no longer be the sole remedy available to employees on government property in places where compensation laws are in force.Such common law action has been almost universally supplanted by the compensation systems and much has been accomplished for employees by virtue of those laws. It would be a step backward to hold, in the face of the declared policy of the Congress, as indicated in the 1936 Act, that the workmen of Pennsylvania employers working at the navy yard could not claim the remedies provided by the Pennsylvania laws passed for their benefit, simply because the legislature has not acknowledged the authority thus granted. Ceded property would thus become a sanctuary for the obsolete restrictions of the common law and a grave yard for the burial of every humane legislation passed for the benefit of the workers.
The plaintiffs' argument that, upon transfer of the sovereignty of a territory, the laws thereof continue in force until abrogated by the new government, and that therefore, as to the navy yard, the laws of recovery for injury in effect in 1863 are still the laws of that area, is not sound. To so hold it would be necessary to ignore the extra-territorial effect of the compensation act and the subsequent federal grant of jurisdiction within the exterior boundaries of the state. In construing the 1928 act declaring that "the rights of the parties shall be governed by the laws of the State within the exterior boundaries of which it [the government territory] may be", it has been said: "This plainly means the existing law, as declared from time to time by the state." Murray v. Joe Gerrick, supra [291 U.S. 315, 54 S. Ct. 434, 78 L. Ed. 821, 92 A.L.R. 1259].
We may therefore assume that the rights of employees in the navy yard are governed by the state laws as they existed in 1863, and as declared from time to time thereafter, and approved or made applicable by the acts of Congress. Congress has chosen to expressly clarify the law and to declare that the Pennsylvania workmen's compensation laws as adopted by the state shall be applicable and available to employees on government property. It would be vain to deny the effectiveness of such declaration for want of a formal acknowledgement of jurisdiction already existing under the compensation act and we cannot agree with the plaintiff's position in this respect.
The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act is by virtue of its terms and of the act of Congress, controlling as to the rights of the plaintiff. An opposite conclusion might in this case enable the plaintiff to recover more than he would under the compensation laws, inasmuch as the government would be charged with the amount of the recovery. This result could not require or justify a reversion to the common law and a denial to navy yard workers of their rights under the workmen's compensation acts. We therefore conclude that the plaintiff has no cause of action at common law and that his redress for the injuries suffered must be under the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act.Judgment should therefore be entered for the defendant notwithstanding the verdict.
There was submitted to the jury for their determination the question of whether the hoisting engine operator was a loaned agent in the service of the subcontractor, although counsel for defendant urged that this was a question of law for the Court. The question of negligence was also submitted to the jury in the face of the defense argument that negligence had not been proven and no recovery could be had. The jury found that the operator was not a loaned agent but was the agent of the defendant at the time of the accident. This finding is in conformity with the facts and it is likewise now concluded as a matter of law so that the rights of the defendant are fully protected. The jury's verdict indicates that they found the operator to have been negligent in the operation of the lift and there seems to have been some justification for such finding. Whether or not there was negligence or carelessness which imposed a liability upon the defendant is academic in view of our finding upon the controlling question as to the applicability of the compensation act. It is therefore unnecessary to extend our comments to cover the arguments of counsel on that point.
Defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is allowed and judgment may be entered accordingly.
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