American Railroad Co. of Porto Rico v. Birch

In American Railroad Co. of Porto Rico v. Birch, 224 U.S. 547, 32 S.Ct. 603, 56 L.Ed. 879 (1912), the widow and son of a deceased railroad worker brought an action as sole beneficiaries, and the lower court held that they should not be compelled to have an administrator appointed for purposes of the suit. The Supreme Court reversed, although a full jury trial had been held: But the words of the act will not yield to such a liberal construction. They are too clear to be other than strictly followed. They give an action for damages to the person injured, or, "in case of his death, . . . to his or her personal representative." . . . (T)his distinction between the parties to sue and the parties to be benefited by the suit makes clear the purposes of Congress. To this purpose we must yield. Even if we could say, as we cannot, that it is not a better provision than to give the cause of action to those in relation to the deceased. In the present case it looks like a useless circumlocution to require an administration upon the deceased's estate, but in many cases it might be much the simpler plan and keep the controversy free from elements but those which relate to the cause of action. But we may presume that all contending considerations were taken into account and the purpose of Congress expressed in the language it used. (224 U.S. at 557, 32 S.Ct. at 606, 56 L.Ed. at 882.)