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MILLER v. DEPUY

October 1, 1969

Charles F. MILLER
v.
Warner M. DEPUY, Secretary of Revenue of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Robert Campbell, Supervisor, Financial Responsibility Division, Bureau of Motor Vehicles of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BODY

 BODY, District Judge.

 The plaintiff is suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enjoin the Secretary of Revenue and the Supervisor of the Financial Responsibility Division of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles from suspending his driver's license and owner registration rights. Plaintiff's problems arose out of an accident involving plaintiff's truck which occurred on August 30, 1956.

 The round trip between Philadelphia and Grasonville was between 250 and 275 miles. On this day, Anderson took with him for company his cousin, John Crosby Boyd, age seventeen. As part of his job Anderson had made the trip to Grasonville fifteen or twenty times previously. At a time previous to the accident, Anderson had discussed with Miller, his employer, the question of whether or not he could take someone with him to Grasonville for company. Miller made no comment, but he did not forbid it.

 At Grasonville, Anderson and Boyd both helped to load the fresh crabs on the truck and to put ice on them. When the truck was ready to start its return journey to Philadelphia, Anderson felt tired or ill and asked Boyd to drive for him. Although Boyd was only seventeen years old, there is no evidence that he was not a competent driver. Along the way they stopped and Anderson picked up a puppy dog. After a short distance, the puppy dog vomited and the truck was halted to enable the dog to run a little. As Boyd continued to drive toward Philadelphia, his attention was distracted by the restless antics of the puppy which Anderson was trying to keep on his lap. Because the driver was distracted, the truck veered to the left side of the road where it collided with an approaching automobile being operated by Louis Ungolo. Ungolo and his daughter were injured. His wife and son were killed.

 A survival and wrongful death action was brought against Boyd, Anderson and Miller. Judgments totalling $57,783.92 were returned against Boyd and Miller in Civil Action No. 23016 on May 21, 1962. Miller was held liable for Boyd's actions based upon Hendler Creamery Co. v. Miller, 153 Md. 264, 138 A. 1 (1923), and Restatement, Agency 2d § 79. Section 79, Illustration 5, reads:

 
"5. P employs A as a truck driver to carry a valuable load of perishable fruit to a distant town. Enroute, A becomes ill and unable to drive. Being unable to communicate with P, he employs B, a competent driver, to take his place for a trip. It may be found that A was authorized to employ B as P's servant."

 The judgment creditors in the above civil action requested the Clerk of the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, to send copies of the judgments to the Secretary of Revenue, since these judgments were unsatisfied within sixty (60) days.

 On June 10, 1963 plaintiff was discharged in bankruptcy from liability to pay the judgment rendered against him on May 21, 1962 in Civil Action No. 23016. Plaintiff through his attorney made demand upon the Secretary of Revenue of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for revocation of the said suspension of the license and owner registration rights. This demand was refused. The Secretary of Revenue cited Section 1414, 75 P.S., which provides in part:

 
"Such license, registration and nonresident's operating privilege shall remain so suspended and shall not be renewed nor shall any such license or registration be thereafter issued in the name of such person, including any such person not previously licensed, unless and until every such judgment is stayed, satisfied in full or to the extent hereinafter provided, and until the said person gives proof of financial responsibility subject to the exemption stated in Section 1413 and 1416 of this act.
 
A discharge in bankruptcy following the rendering of any such judgment shall not relieve the judgment debtor from any of the requirements of this article."

 No appeal was taken in the state court from the actions of the Secretary of Revenue.

 The plaintiff filed the present action alleging a violation within 42 U.S.C. § 1983 *fn2" in that he was deprived under color of state law, of a right secured by federal law. The plaintiff contends his rights to travel and earn a living have been abridged and that the discharge in bankruptcy under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. ...


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