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decided: June 6, 1955.



Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton, Clark, Minton, Harlan

Author: Douglas

[ 349 U.S. Page 409]

 MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Carroll, the petitioner, was an employee of Hogan, an intervenor, who in turn was a subcontractor doing work for the respondent Lanza, the general contractor. Carroll and Hogan were residents of Missouri; and Carroll's employment contract with Hogan was made in Missouri. The work, however, was done in Arkansas; and it was there that the injury occurred.

Carroll, not aware that he had remedies under the Arkansas law, received 34 weekly payments for the injury under the Missouri Compensation Act. The Missouri Act is applicable to injuries received inside or outside the State where the employment contract, as here, is made in the State. Mo. Rev. Stat., 1949, § 287.110. The Missouri Act also provides that every employer and employee shall be "conclusively presumed to have elected to accept" its provisions unless "prior to the accident" he shall have filed with the compensation commission a written notice that he "elects" to reject the compensation provision. Id., § 287.060. No such notice, however, was filed in this case. Moreover, the Missouri Act provides that the rights and remedies granted by it "shall exclude all other rights and remedies . . . at common law or otherwise," on account of the injury or death.*fn1 Id., § 287.120.

[ 349 U.S. Page 410]

     Arkansas also has provisions for workmen's compensation. Ark. Stat., 1947, § 81-1301 et seq. It provides the exclusive remedy of the employee against the employer (id., § 81-1304) but not against a third party. Id., § 81-1340. And the court below, on review of Arkansas authorities, concluded that a general contractor, such as Lanza, the respondent, was a third party within the meaning of the Arkansas Act. And see Baldwin Co. v. Maner, , Ark. , 273 S. W. 2d 28.

While Carroll was receiving weekly payments under the Missouri Act, he decided to sue Lanza for common-law damages in the Arkansas courts. Lanza had the case removed to the Federal District Court where judgment was rendered for Carroll.*fn2 116 F.Supp. 491. The Court of Appeals, while agreeing with the District Court that the judgment was sustainable as a matter of Arkansas law, reversed on the ground that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution*fn3 (Art. IV, § 1) barred recovery. 216 F.2d 808. The case is here by petition for certiorari which we granted (348 U.S. 870) because of doubts as to the correctness of the decision raised by Pacific Employers Insurance Co. v. Commission, 306 U.S. 493.

The Court of Appeals thought Magnolia Petroleum Co. v. Hunt, 320 U.S. 430, to be controlling. There the employee having received a final award for compensation

[ 349 U.S. Page 411]

     in the forum of the injury returned to his home State and sued to recover under its Compensation Act. We held that the latter suit was precluded by the Full Faith and Credit Clause. But here there was no final award under the Missouri Act. Under that Act the statutory payments apparently start automatically on receipt of notice of the injury. Mo. Rev. Stat., 1949, §§ 287.380, 287.400. While provision is made for an adjudication of disputes between an employee and his employer (id., §§ 287.400, 287.450), no adjudication was sought or obtained here.

Nor do we have a case where an employee, knowing of two remedies which purport to be mutually exclusive, chooses one as against the other and therefore is precluded a second choice by the law of the forum. Rather we have the naked question whether the Full Faith and Credit Clause makes Missouri's statute a bar to Arkansas' common-law remedy.

A statute is a "public act" within the meaning of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. See Bradford Electric Co. v. Clapper, 286 U.S. 145, 154-155, and cases cited; Alaska Packers Assn. v. Commission, 294 U.S. 532. It was indeed held in the Clapper case that a Vermont Compensation Act, which purported to give an exclusive remedy, barred a common-law action on the same claim in the New Hampshire courts by a Vermont employee against a Vermont employer, even though the injury occurred in New Hampshire. The Clapper case allowed a State to fix one exclusive remedy for personal injuries involving its residents, and required the other States to refuse to enforce any inconsistent remedy. Thus, as respects persons residing or businesses located in a State, a remedy was provided employees that was "both expeditious and independent of proof of fault," and a liability was imposed on employers that was "limited and determinate." 286 U.S., at 159.

[ 349 U.S. Page 412]

     refusing to make relief by way of workmen's compensation the exclusive remedy. Baldwin Co. v. Maner, supra. Her interests are large and considerable and are to be weighed not only in the light of the facts of this case but by the kind of situation presented. For we write not only for this case and this day alone, but for this type of case. The State where the tort occurs certainly has a concern in the problems following in the wake of the injury. The problems of medical care and of possible dependents are among these, as Pacific Employers Insurance Co. v. Commission, supra, emphasizes. Id., at 501. A State that legislates concerning them is exercising traditional powers of sovereignty. Cf. Watson v. Employers Liability Corp., 348 U.S. 66, 73. Arkansas therefore has a legitimate interest in opening her courts to suits of this nature, even though in this case Carroll's injury may have cast no burden on her or on her institutions.

This is not a case like Hughes v. Fetter, 341 U.S. 609, where the State of the forum seeks to exclude from its courts actions arising under a foreign statute. In that case, we held that Wisconsin could not refuse to entertain a wrongful death action under an Illinois statute for an injury occurring in Illinois, since we found no sufficient policy considerations to warrant such refusal. And see Broderick v. Rosner, 294 U.S. 629. The present case is a much weaker one for application of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Arkansas, the State of the forum, is not adopting any policy of hostility to the public Acts of Missouri. It is choosing to apply its own rule of law to give affirmative relief for an action arising within its borders.

[ 349 U.S. Page 414]

     Missouri can make her Compensation Act exclusive, if she chooses, and enforce it as she pleases within her borders. Once that policy is extended into other States, different considerations come into play. Arkansas can adopt Missouri's policy if she likes. Or, as the Pacific Page 414} Employers Insurance Co. case teaches, she may supplement it or displace it with another, insofar as remedies for acts occurring within her boundaries are concerned. Were it otherwise, the State where the injury occurred would be powerless to provide any remedies or safeguards to nonresident employees working within its borders. We do not think the Full Faith and Credit Clause demands that subserviency from the State of the injury.


Disposit ...

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