Brief Fact Summary. Federal and state common carrier laws result in a conflict as to which law applies to James Winfield’s (Plaintiff’s) injuries.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Federal law preempts state law when both laws cover the same field.
The liabilities and obligations of interstate railroad carriers to make compensation for personal injuries suffered by their employees while engaged in interstate commerce are regulated both inclusively and exclusively by the Federal Employers Liability Act; and, Congress having thus fully covered the subject, no room exists for state regulation, even in respect of injuries occurring without fault, as to which the federal act provides no remedy.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a federal law for common carriers preempts a state’s common carrier law when they both cover the same field.
Held. (Justice Van Devanter). Yes. The Commerce Clause may regulate common carriers and the rights of their employees arising out of injuries sustained when both are engaged in interstate commerce. When Congress acts intends to regulate a particular field, all state laws covering the same field are necessarily preempted. The judgment is reversed.
Dissent. (Justice Brandeis). The Court has denied the existence of preemption in situations when the intent of Congress to leave the field open to state action was far less clear than under circumstances in this case.
Discussion. This case seems to be very clear as to any conflicts occurring between state and federal law. Federal law will always preempt state law when both are regulating the same field.