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PANAMA RAILROAD COMPANY v. JOHNSON.

decided: April 7, 1924.

PANAMA RAILROAD COMPANY
v.
JOHNSON.



ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Author: Van Devanter

[ 264 U.S. Page 382]

 MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was an action by a seaman against his employer, the owner of the ship on which he was serving, to recover damages for personal injuries suffered at sea while he was ascending a ladder from the deck to the bridge in the course of his employment, -- the complaint charging that the injuries resulted from negligence of the employer in providing an inadequate ladder and negligence of the ship's officers in permitting a canvas dodger to be stretched and insecurely fastened across the top of the ladder and in ordering the seaman to go up the ladder. The employer was a New York corporation. The ship was a domestic merchant vessel which at the time of the injuries was returning from an Ecuadorian port. The action was brought on the common-law side of a District Court of the United States, and the right of recovery was based expressly on § 20 of the Act of March 4, 1915, c. 153, 38 Stat. 1185, as amended by § 33 of the Act of June 5, 1920, c. 250, 41 Stat. 1007, which reads as follows:

[ 264 U.S. Page 383]

     "Sec. 20. That any seaman who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right of trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply; and in case of the death of any seaman as a result of any such personal injury the personal representative of such seaman may maintain an action for damages at law with the right of trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States conferring or regulating the right of action for death in the case of railway employees shall be applicable. Jurisdiction in such actions shall be under the court of the district in which the defendant employer resides or in which his principal office is located."

The defendant unsuccessfully demurred to the complaint and then answered. The issues were tried to the court and a jury; a verdict for the plaintiff was returned, and a judgment was entered thereon, which the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 289 Fed. 964. The defendant prosecutes this writ of error.

1. Apparently the action was not brought in the district of the defendant's residence or principal office as provided in the act; and on this ground the defendant objected that the District Court could not entertain it. The objection was not made at the outset on a special appearance, but after the defendant had appeared generally and demurred to the complaint. The court thought the objection went to the venue only and was waived by the general appearance; so the objection was overruled. 277 Fed. 859. Error is assigned on the ruling; but we think it was right.

The case arose under a law of the United States and involved the requisite amount, if any was requisite;*fn1 so

[ 264 U.S. Page 384]

     there can be no doubt that the case was within the general jurisdiction conferred on the District Courts by § 24 of the Judicial Code, unless, as the defendant contends, it was excluded by the concluding provision of the act, which says: "Jurisdiction of such actions shall be under the court of the district in which the defendant employer resides or in which his principal office is located." Although not happily worded, the provision, taken alone, gives color to the contention. But as a general rule, where existing legislation on a particular subject has been systematically revised and restated in a comprehensive general statute, such as the Judicial Code, subsequent enactments touching that subject are to be construed and applied in harmony with the general statute, save as they clearly manifest of different purpose. An intention to depart from a course or policy thus deliberately settled is not lightly to be assumed. See United States v. Barnes, 222 U.S. 513, 520; United States v. Sweet, 245 U.S. 563, 572. The rule is specially pertinent here. Beginning with the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress has pursued the policy of investing the federal courts -- at first the Circuit Courts, and later the District Courts -- with a general jurisdiction expressed in terms applicable alike to all of them and of regulating the venue by separate provisions designating the particular district in which a defendant shall be sued, such as the district of which he is an inhabitant or in which he has a place of business, -- the purpose of the venue provisions being to prevent defendants from being compelled to answer and defend in remote districts against their will. This policy was carried into the Judicial Code, and is shown in §§ 24 and 51, one embodying general jurisdictional provisions applicable to right under subsequent laws as well as laws then existing, and the other containing particular venue provisions. A reading of the provision now before us with those sections, and in the light of the policy carried into

[ 264 U.S. Page 385]

     them, makes it reasonably certain that the provision is not intended to affect the general jurisdiction of the District Courts as defined in § 24, but only to prescribe the venue for actions brought under the new act of which it is a part. No reason why it should have a different purpose has been suggested, nor do we perceive any. Its use of the word "jurisdiction" seems inapt, and therefore not of special significance. The words "shall be" are stressed by the defendant, but as they are found also in the earlier provisions which uniformly have been held to relate to venue only, they afford no ground for a distinction.

By a long line of decisions, recently reaffirmed, it is settled that such a provision merely confers on the defendant a personal privilege which he may assert, or may waive, at his election, and does waive if, when sued in some other district, he enters a general appearance before or without claiming his privilege. Interior Construction & Improvement Co. v. Gibney, 160 U.S. 217; United States v. Hvoslef, 237 U.S. 1, 11; General Investment Co. v. ...


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