Reuben L. Martin brought this action to recover compensation for personal injuries. At the time Martin was injured he was on a train of the railroad company, in the employ of the United States as a railway postal clerk on a route extending from Cleveland, Ohio, to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The injuries arose from the derailing in Pennsylvania of the train, by the negligence of the crew of a work train, in permitting a switch leading to a side track to be open. Among other defenses the company pleaded a law of Pennsylvania passed April 4, 1868 (P. L. 58), which, it alleged, was applicable, and relieved from responsibility. In reply the plaintiff denied the existence and applicability of the statute, moreover, and defended on the ground that the statute, if existing and applicable, was void, first, because contrary to the power delegated to Congress to establish postoffices and post roads; second, because repugnant to the commerce clause of the Constitution; and, third, because in conflict with the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment, and also the clause prohibiting a state from making or enforcing any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.
On trial before a jury the court held the statute in question to be applicable and valid, and hence operative to defeat a recovery. A verdict and judgment in favor of the railroad company was severally affirmed by the circuit court and by the supreme court of the state of Ohio.
Messrs. Charles Koonce, Jr., Robert B. Murray, and William S. Anderson for plaintiff in error.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 285-290 intentionally omitted]
Messrs. James P. Wilson and Arrel, Wilson, & Harrington for defendant in error.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 290-291 intentionally omitted]
Mr. Justice White, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court: