ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, THIRD JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT, OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK.
MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the court.
The Workmen's Compensation Law of the State of New York (c. 816, Laws 1913, as amended and reenacted by c. 41, Laws 1914; Cons. Laws, c. 67), which was sustained by this court against attacks based upon the Fourteenth Amendment in New York Central R.R. Co. v. White, 243 U.S. 188, was amended by Laws 1916, c. 622, among other things by inserting in the 15th section, which contains the schedule of compensation for cases of disability, a clause reading as follows: "In case of an injury resulting in serious facial or head disfigurement the commission may in its discretion, make such award or compensation as it may deem proper and equitable, in view of the nature of the disfigurement, but not to exceed three thousand five hundred dollars."
The present writs of error bring up for review three judgments of the Court of Appeals of that State, affirming orders of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, in which awards bases upon this amendment were sustained. The opinion of the Court of Appeals, applicable to all of the cases, is reported under the title of Matter of Sweeting v. American Knife Co., 226 N.Y. 199.
In each case the Commission found accidental injuries sustained by an employee in a hazardous occupation, arising out of and in the course of the employment, and, as a result of the injury, some serious facial or head disfigurement, or both. In each case an award was made on account of such disfigurement irrespective of the allowance of compensation according to the schedule based upon the average wage of the injured employee and the character and duration of the disability.
The sole contention here is that the amendment of 1916, as thus carried into effect, deprives the respective plaintiffs
in error of property without due process of law, in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The argument is that an award for disfigurement, made wholly independent of claimant's inability to work, is not based upon impairment of earning power; that only such impairment can justify imposing upon an employer without fault compulsory payment by way of compensation to an injured workman; and hence that the "disfigurement clause" is not a reasonable exercise of the police power, but is arbitrary and oppressive.
In view of our recent decisions sustaining state laws imposing upon employers in the hazardous industries responsibility in one form or another for the consequences of injuries received by employees in the course of the employment in the absence of fault on the employer's part (New York Central R.R. Co. v. White, 243 U.S. 188; Mountain Timber Co. v. Washington, 243 U.S. 219; Arizona Employers' Liability Cases, ante, 400), little need now be said.
Even were impairment of earning power the sole justification for imposing compulsory payment of workmen's compensation upon the employer in such cases, it would be sufficient answer to the present contention to say that a serious disfigurement of the face or head reasonably may be regarded as having a direct relation to the injured person's earning power, irrespective of its effect upon his mere capacity for work.
Under ordinary conditions of life, a serious and unnatural disfigurement of the face or head very probably may have a harmful effect upon the ability of the injured person to obtain or retain employment. Laying aside exceptional cases, which we must assume will be fairly dealt with in the proper and equitable administration of the act, such a disfigurement may render one repulsive or offensive to the sight, ...