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Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Georgia, 234 U.S. 280 (1914)

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company v. Georgia

No. 24

Argued April 17, 1913

Decided June 8, 1914

234 U.S. 280


The existence of difference of opinion as to which is the best form of necessary safety device does not preclude the exercise of legislative discretion, and so far as the question is simply one of expediency, the legislature is competent to decide it.

The criticism that a police statute requires a carrier to comply with conditions beyond its control and therefore deprives it of its property without due process of law is not open in this Court if the state court has construed the statute as not so requiring the carrier.

The state court having held that the term "railroad company" as used

Page 234 U. S. 281

in a state police statute is inclusive of natural persons operating a railroad and that the statute is not unconstitutional as denying equal protection of the law to railroad corporations because it does not include natural persons, this Court concurs in that view.

A state police statute requiring railroad companies to use a specified safety device is not unconstitutional as denying equal protection of the laws because it does not affect receivers operating railroads; in view of the temporary and special character of a receiver's management, the classification is reasonable and proper.

In the absence of legislation by Congress, the states may exercise their powers to secure safety in the physical operation of railroad trains within their territory, even though such trains are used in interstate commerce.

In regulating interstate trains as to matters in regard to which Congress has not acted, a state may not make arbitrary requirements as to safety devices; but its requirements are not invalid as interfering with interstate commerce because another state, in the exercise of the same power, has imposed, or may impose, a different requirement.

Congress may, whenever it pleases, make the rule and establish the standard to be observed on interstate highways.

None of the safety appliance statutes enacted by Congress relates to or regulates locomotive headlights.

The intent of Congress to supersede the exercise of the police power of the states in respect to a subject on which it has not acted cannot be inferred merely from the fact that such subject has been investigated under its authority.

The statute of Georgia of 1908, Civil Code, §§ 2697, 269S, requiring railroad companies to use locomotive headlights of specified form and power, is not unconstitutional either as a denial of equal protection of the law, as deprivation of property without due process of law, or as an interference with interstate commerce.

135 Ga. 545 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of the Locomotive Headlight Law of Georgia, are stated in the opinion.

Page 234 U. S. 286

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