Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins

U.S. Case Law

Legal Definition of Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins

304 U.S. 64 (1938), required federal courts to apply state law in diversity cases (i.e., cases in which the litigants are from different jurisdictions). Prior to Erie diversity cases were decided on the basis of what was held to be a kind of federal common law, which consisted of the “laws of the several states” plus federal courts'—not states'—interpretations of those laws (Swift v. Tyson, 41 U.S. 1 (1842)). Supporters of this earlier position believed that a federal common law was conducive to national development, while opponents claimed that it rode roughshod over states' rights. In an unprecedented ruling, Justice Louis D. Brandeis declared the earlier Supreme Court decision (Swift) unconstitutional, thus changing the course of diversity proceedings. Henceforth there would be no federal “common law” in diversity cases but only federal application of state laws.

Learn More About Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins

Dictionary Entries Near Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins

Erie doctrine

Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins

ERISA

See More Nearby Entries 

Cite this Entry

“Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins.” Merriam-Webster.com Legal Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/legal/Erie%20Railroad%20Co.%20v.%20Tompkins. Accessed 25 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!