319 U.S. 350 (1943), 640, Bailey v. Central Vermont Railway, Inc.

Docket NºNo. 640
Citation319 U.S. 350, 63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444
Party NameBailey v. Central Vermont Railway, Inc.
Case DateMay 24, 1943
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 350

319 U.S. 350 (1943)

63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444

Bailey

v.

Central Vermont Railway, Inc.

No. 640

United States Supreme Court

May 24, 1943

Argued April 13, 1943

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF VERMONT

Syllabus

In this suit under the Federal Employers Liability Act, brought in a state court against a carrier to recover damage for the death of an employee, the evidence was sufficient to go to the jury on the question whether, as alleged in the complaint, the defendant was negligent in failing to use reasonable care to furnish the employee a safe place to work. P. 354.

113 Vt. 8, 28 A.2d 639, reversed.

Certiorari, 318 U.S. 751, to review the reversal of a judgment upon a verdict for the plaintiff in a suit under the Federal Employers Liability Act.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

[63 S.Ct. 1063] MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This action was brought under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 U.S.C. § 51), in the state courts of Vermont to recover damages for the death of Bernard E. Bailey, one of respondent's employees. At the close of all the evidence, respondent moved for a directed verdict. The Court denied the motion and submitted the case to the jury, which returned a verdict for petitioner. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Vermont reversed, by a divided vote, holding that the motion for a directed verdict should have been granted because negligence was not shown. 113 Vt. 8, 28 A.2d 639. The case is here on certiorari.

Page 351

Bailey had worked for respondent as a sectionman for about five years. On the day in question, May 14, 1940, he went to work on a work train to a point on the road in Williston, Vt., where he and other members of the crew unloaded track material to be used on the roadbed. Instructions were then received to unload a car filled with cinders. The evidence of the accident, viewed in a light favorable to petitioner, was as follows:

The car was pulled onto a bridge over a cattle pass so that the cinders could be dumped through the ties in the bridge floor onto the roadway below. The floor of the bridge was about 18 feet above the ground. The only available footing at the side of the car was about 12 inches wide. Of this space, 8 or 9 inches were taken up by a raised stringer -- i.e., a timber which lay across the ties and was set in 3 or 4 inches from their ends. There was no guard rail. The cinders to be unloaded were in a hopper car. That type of car has doors in the floor which are closed by a chain which winds up on a shaft running crossways of the car. The doors are opened from the side by one man turning a nut on the end of the shaft while another disengages from a ratchet a dog which holds the shaft. A wrench is applied to the nut at the end of the shaft, the operator pulls its handle back to relieve the tension on the dog, the other person releases the dog, the operator of the wrench pushes back on it to open the hopper, and the weight of the material in the car opens the doors. When the hopper starts to open, the shaft spins, and the operator must disengage the wrench or let go of it, lest he thrown off balance or knocked down. The wrench used by Bailey was a heavy frog wrench -- open jaws and a handle about three feet long. It had been used for many years for that purpose, and no one had been injured by it. Bailey certainly was unskilled, and perhaps unfamiliar in the opening of hopper cars. No one had ever seen him open one. Such an operation was usually

Page 352

performed by men older in point of service. Bailey had been present on a few occasions when hopper cars were unloaded, but usually he was on top of the car at the time. Cinders were dumped at this bridge about once a year. As Bailey walked out on the stringer on the bridge and put the wrench on the nut, the section foreman said, "Be careful the wrench doesn't catch you." Bailey at once pushed on the wrench, but the hopper did not open; he gave another push on the wrench, the hopper opened, the nut spun, and Bailey was thrown by the wrench into the roadway below. The hopper car could have been opened before it was moved onto the bridge, and any cinders which spilled on the roadbed shoveled onto the roadway beneath the bridge. Or, after the cinders had been dumped upon the roadbed, a railroad tie could have been utilized as a drag to push cinders from the roadbed to the ground below the bridge.

Bailey died from the injuries resulting from the fall.

There was, in our view, sufficient evidence to go to the jury on the question whether, as alleged in the complaint, respondent was negligent in failing to use reasonable care in furnishing Bailey with a safe place to do the work.

Sec. 1 of the Act makes the carrier liable in damages for any injury or death "resulting in whole or in part from the negligence" of any of its "officers, agents, or employees." The rights which the Act creates are federal rights protected by federal, rather than local, rules of law. In re Second Employers' Liability Cases, 223 U.S. 1; Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Horton, 233 U.S. 492; [63 S.Ct. 1064] Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Kuhn, 284 U.S. 44. And those federal rules have been largely fashioned from the common law (Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Horton, supra) except as Congress has written into the Act different standards. Tiller v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 318 U.S. 54. At common law, the duty of the employer to use reasonable care in furnishing his employees with a safe place to work was plain. 3 Labatt,

Page 353

Master & Servant (2d ed.) § 917. That rule is deeply engrained in federal jurisprudence. Patton v. Texas & Pacific Ry. Co., 179 U.S. 658, 664, and cases cited; Kreigh v. Westinghouse & Co., 214 U.S. 249, 256-257; Kenmont Coal Co. v. Patton, 268 F. 334, 336. As stated by this Court in the Patton case, it is a duty which becomes "more imperative" as the risk increases.

Reasonable care becomes, then, a demand of higher supremacy, and yet, in all cases, it is a question of the reasonableness of the care, reasonableness depending upon the danger attending the place or the machinery.

179 U.S. p. 664. It is that rule which obtains under the Employers' Liability Act. See Coal & Coke Ry. Co. v. Deal, 231 F. 604; Northwestern Pacific R. Co. v. Fiedler, 52 F.2d 400; Thomson v. Boles, 123 F.2d 487; 2 Roberts, Federal Liabilities of Carriers (2d ed.) § 807. That duty of the carrier is a "continuing one" (Kreigh v. Westinghouse, C., K. & Co., supra, p. 256) from which the carrier is not relieved by the fact that the employee's work at the place in question is fleeting or infrequent.

The nature of the task which Bailey undertook, the hazards which it entailed, the effort which it required, the kind of footing he had, the space in which he could stand, the absence of a guard rail, the height of the bridge above the ground, the fact that the car could have been opened or unloaded near the bridge on level ground -- all these were facts and circumstances for the jury to weigh and appraise in determining whether respondent in furnishing Bailey with that particular place in which to perform the task was negligent. The debatable quality of that issue, the fact that fair-minded men might reach different conclusions, emphasize the appropriateness of leaving the question to the jury. The jury is the tribunal under our legal system to decide that type of issue (Tiller v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., supra) as well as issues involving controverted evidence. Jones v. East Tennessee v. & G. R. Co., 128 U.S.

Page 354

443, 445; Washington & Georgetown R. Co. v. McDade, 135 U.S. 554, 572. To withdraw such a question from the jury is to usurp its functions.

The right to trial by jury is "a basic...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP
475 practice notes
  • 248 So.2d 110 (Ala. 1971), 6 Div. 774, Central of Georgia Ry. Co. v. Steed
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court of Alabama
    • April 8, 1971
    ...are cited to Ellis v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., 329 U.S. 649, 67 S.Ct. 598, 91 L.Ed. 572, and Bailey v. Central Vermont Railroad Co., 319 U.S. 350, 63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444, which we consider here inapplicable. 'As we view the matter this question was settled by the Supreme Court of t......
  • 323 N.E.2d 796 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 1975), 58909, Mrzlak v. Ettinger
    • United States
    • Illinois Court of Appeals of Illinois
    • January 23, 1975
    ...to decide that type of issue. To withdraw such questions from the jury is to usurp its function. Bailey v. Central Vermont Railway Co., 319 U.S. 350, 63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444.' (2 Ill.2d at 84, 117 N.E.2d at 80.) Defendants' next contention is that plaintiff's failure to lock her window......
  • 408 N.E.2d 348 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 1980), 79-1092, Polkey v. Phillips
    • United States
    • Illinois Court of Appeals of Illinois
    • July 21, 1980
    ...to decide that type of issue. To withdraw such questions from the jury is to usurp its function. Bailey v. Central Vermont Railway Co., 319 U.S. 350, 63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444." When the evidence discloses a substantial factual dispute on either the issue of plaintiff's due care or ......
  • 636 N.E.2d 1214 (Ill.App. 5 Dist. 1994), 5-91-0296, Urbas v. Saintco, Inc.
    • United States
    • Illinois Court of Appeals of Illinois
    • June 30, 1994
    ...type of issue. To withdraw such questions from the jury is to usurp its function." Bailey v. Central Vermont Railway[, Inc. (1943),] 319 U.S. 350[, 63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444]." Ney, 2 Ill.2d at 84, 117 N.E.2d at 80. All the doctors who testified agreed that a delay in treatment......
  • Free signup to view additional results
469 cases
  • 248 So.2d 110 (Ala. 1971), 6 Div. 774, Central of Georgia Ry. Co. v. Steed
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court of Alabama
    • April 8, 1971
    ...are cited to Ellis v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., 329 U.S. 649, 67 S.Ct. 598, 91 L.Ed. 572, and Bailey v. Central Vermont Railroad Co., 319 U.S. 350, 63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444, which we consider here inapplicable. 'As we view the matter this question was settled by the Supreme Court of t......
  • 323 N.E.2d 796 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 1975), 58909, Mrzlak v. Ettinger
    • United States
    • Illinois Court of Appeals of Illinois
    • January 23, 1975
    ...to decide that type of issue. To withdraw such questions from the jury is to usurp its function. Bailey v. Central Vermont Railway Co., 319 U.S. 350, 63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444.' (2 Ill.2d at 84, 117 N.E.2d at 80.) Defendants' next contention is that plaintiff's failure to lock her window......
  • 408 N.E.2d 348 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 1980), 79-1092, Polkey v. Phillips
    • United States
    • Illinois Court of Appeals of Illinois
    • July 21, 1980
    ...to decide that type of issue. To withdraw such questions from the jury is to usurp its function. Bailey v. Central Vermont Railway Co., 319 U.S. 350, 63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444." When the evidence discloses a substantial factual dispute on either the issue of plaintiff's due care or ......
  • 636 N.E.2d 1214 (Ill.App. 5 Dist. 1994), 5-91-0296, Urbas v. Saintco, Inc.
    • United States
    • Illinois Court of Appeals of Illinois
    • June 30, 1994
    ...type of issue. To withdraw such questions from the jury is to usurp its function." Bailey v. Central Vermont Railway[, Inc. (1943),] 319 U.S. 350[, 63 S.Ct. 1062, 87 L.Ed. 1444]." Ney, 2 Ill.2d at 84, 117 N.E.2d at 80. All the doctors who testified agreed that a delay in treatment......
  • Free signup to view additional results
6 books & journal articles
  • Towards a unified theory of "reverse-Erie".
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 162 Nbr. 5, April - April 2014
    • April 1, 2014
    ...feature of our system of federal jurisprudence." (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Bailey v. Cent. Vt. Ry., Inc., 319 U.S. 350, 354 (1943))). Bailey, in turn, cited an earlier case, Jacob v. New York City, 315 U.S. 752, 752 (1942), which added that the jury right stemmed from ......
  • A Matter of Life and Death- Why the ADA Permits Mandatory Periodic Medical Examinations of
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review Nbr. 66-3, May 2006
    • May 1, 2006
    ...Cir. 1980) (Jones Act employer has a duty to assign workers to jobs for which they are reasonably suited); Bailey v. Central Vermont Ry., 319 U.S. 350, 352-53, 63 S. Ct. 1062, 1063-64 (1943) (Jones Act employer has a duty to provide a reasonably safe place to work). [129] See, e.g., Chevron......
  • The Hague Choice of Court Convention and federal power over state courts.
    • United States
    • Georgetown Journal of International Law Vol. 45 Nbr. 1, September 2013
    • September 22, 2013
    ...(98.) 238 U.S. 507 (1915). (99.) Id. at 512. (100.) 342 U.S. 359 (1952). (101.) Id. at 363 (quoting Bailey v. Cent. Vt. Ry. Inc., 319 U.S. 350, 354 (1943)) (internal quotation marks omitted). (102.) Felder v. Casey, 487 U.S. 131, 150 (1988) (quoting Brown v. W. Ry. of Ala., 338 U.S. 294, 29......
  • Federal regulation of state court procedures.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 110 Nbr. 6, April 2001
    • April 1, 2001
    ...238 U.S. 507. (67.) Id. at 511. (68.) Id. (citation omitted). (69.) Id. at 512. (70.) Id. (71.) Id. (72.) See Bailey v. Cent. Vt. Ry., 319 U.S. 350, 354 (1943) (explaining that "however inefficient and backward [a jury determination] may be, it is the system which Congress has provided......
  • Free signup to view additional results