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OLIVER et al. v. CENTRAL OF GEORGIA RAILWAY COMPANY et al.
18542.
Injunction. Before Judge Anderson. Bibb Superior Court. October 30, 1953.
WYATT, Presiding Justice.
The judgment complained of was not error for any reason assigned.
The record in this case is voluminous, containing 194 pages. In the view we take of this case, it is not necessary to set forth this long record, but only the following: Central of Georgia Railway Company filed in Bibb Superior Court a bill in equity against named individuals, personally and as representatives of the class of colored firemen employed by the Central of Georgia Railway Company, and as representatives of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen. The suit sought to enjoin one pending suit and other threatened claims and suits growing out of the interpretation of a certain decree of the District Court of the United States for the Middle District of Georgia. A copy of this decree was attached to the petition and reads as follows: "This cause having come on for hearing on request of all parties that a final order and decree be entered putting into effect a compromise settlement of the issues of this litigation as agreed to by all parties: and it appearing to the court that this is a class action by certain Negro firemen employed by Central of Georgia Railway Company against said Central of Georgia Railway Company, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, Lodge No. 572 of Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, Carl Flowers, P. M. Pace, and W. R. Pace, on their own behalf and on behalf of all of the Negro firemen employed by said railroad; and it appearing to the court further that all parties have agreed to a compromise settlement of the issues of this litigation and that notice of this compromise settlement was given to the plaintiffs and their class pursuant to order of this court dated February 21st, 1952; and it further appearing to the court that no plaintiff or any member of their class has appeared in opposition to the proposed compromise settlement; and it further appearing to the court that this litigation has been long and complex, involving huge expenditures and numerous issues many of which remain unresolved; and it further appearing to the court that the compromise settlement of the issues of this litigation, as agreed upon by the parties through their attorneys, is a fair and reasonable disposition of this litigation in the best interests of plaintiffs and their class,
"Now, therefore, It is ordered, adjudged and decreed: 1. That the defendant Central of Georgia Railway Company, and the defendant Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen as representative of the Negro firemen on said railway Company, their officers, agents and employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with them, are hereby permanently restricted and enjoined (a) from enforcing the Southern Carriers' Conference Agreement of February 18, 1941, or any other written or oral agreements, or carrying on any practices under such agreements, insofar as said agreements or practices discriminate, on the ground of race or color, against Negro firemen in their employment or occupation as firemen on steam locomotives or as helpers on Diesel locomotives, or, (b) from denying to plaintiffs or other members of their class their respective rights to assignments as firemen on steam locomotives or as helpers on Diesel locomotives based upon seniority and qualifications because they are Negroes or because they have not been permitted or required to take or pass examinations to qualify as engineers or (c) from requiring or compelling them to pass examinations to qualify as engineers as a condition of their continued employment or continued enjoyment of their seniority rights as firemen on steam locomotives or as helpers on Diesel locomotives.
"2. That the defendant Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen shall pay a sum of money agreed upon by plaintiffs and said brotherhood for the benefit of plaintiffs and their class as attorneys' fees and reimbursement in part for costs and expenses heretofore incurred in maintaining this litigation.
"3. That the plaintiffs and all members of the class represented by the plaintiffs are forever barred and concluded from hereafter seeking in any court any relief by way of injunction or for damages in respect of the matters determined in this proceeding."
It was alleged that this decree was prospective and not retrospective and, therefore, the railway company was not required to go back of the date of this decree and revise all of the firemen seniority rosters, and that the suit pending and the threatened suits were based upon the interpretation of this decree to the effect that the railway company was required so to do.
Demurrers, general and special, to the petition were overruled. The case was then submitted to the judge to decide without the intervention of a jury and upon the pleadings without the introduction of other evidence. The exception here is to a judgment, dated October 30, 1953, sustaining an oral motion to dismiss the claims filed by Mose Oliver, Eugene Oliver, James Gilchrist, and James Williams, and to the judgment of the same date permanently enjoining the plaintiffs in error as prayed.
that the decree did not require it to go back of the date of the decree to revise the seniority rosters of all its firemen, and that the claims of the plaintiffs in error were based upon a construction of the decree to the effect that the railway company was required to go back of the date of the decree for the purpose of revising the seniority rosters.
The record discloses that the plaintiffs in error filed in the trial court their general demurrer to the petition, contending in substance that the facts alleged did not entitle the plaintiff to the relief sought. On September 25, 1953, this general demurrer was overruled. The trial judge in passing upon this demurrer of necessity construed the decree in question, and in order to overrule the general demurrer, he had to construe the meaning of the decree to be that alleged in the petition. The judgment overruling this demurrer has not been excepted to by anyone.
"No judgment will be reversed by the Supreme Court when, in order to do so, it must rule adversely to the defendant in error upon a question which has already been settled in his favor in the court below by a decision which has never been set aside and which is not itself properly here for review." Hollis v. Nelms, 115 Ga. 5 (41 S. E. 263). "A judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction shall be conclusive between the same parties and their privies as to all matters put in issue, or which under the rules of law might have been put in issue in the cause wherein the judgment was rendered, until such judgment shall be reversed or set aside." Code 110-501. "The judgment of the lower court overruling the general demurrer to the petition, the same being unexcepted to, was a conclusive determination that a right of action for injunction existed in favor of the plaintiff; and upon substantial proof of its case as laid, the plaintiff was entitled to a verdict and decree in its favor." Pierpont Manufacturing Co. v. Mayor &c. of Savannah, 153 Ga. 455 (112 S. E. 462). "The right of the plaintiff to recover upon proof of the allegations made in his petition was adjudicated favorably to him by the judgment overruling the demurrer. Until duly set aside, that decision is conclusive, and the question thereby settled is to be regarded as res adjudicata." Brooks v. Rawlings, 138 Ga. 310, 313 (75 S. E. 157).
Applying the above rules of law to the instant case, it is clear that the ruling on the general demurrer established the law of the case, and, whether right or wrong, is therefore binding on all parties to this case.
It is insisted that several other judgments and orders passed during the pendency of this proceeding had the effect of establishing the law of the case favorably to the defendant in error, but since the above question is decisive, we do not deem it necessary to consider these other orders and judgments. It follows, no error appears.
Judgment affirmed. All the Justices concur.
Benning M. Grice, A. R. Lawton, John B. Miller, Harold C. Heiss & Russell B. Day, contra.
Johnson & Jones, Thomas W. Johnson, for plaintiffs in error.
ARGUED APRIL 12, 1954 -- DECIDED MAY 11, 1954.
Saturday May 23 03:45 EDT


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