95 U.S. 161 (1877), Continental Imp. Co. v. Stead

Citation:95 U.S. 161, 24 L.Ed. 403
Case Date:November 12, 1877
Court:United States Supreme Court

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95 U.S. 161 (1877)

24 L.Ed. 403




United States Supreme Court.

November 12, 1877


ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Indiana.

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The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.


Submitted on printed arguments by Messrs. Hughes, O'Brien, & Smiley for the plaintiff in error, and by Mr. J. J. Coombs, contra.

MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a case of collision near the village of Lima, in La Grange County, Indiana, between a train of passenger cars of the plaintiff in error and the wagon of the defendant in error. The latter brought the action below to recover the damages done to himself and his wagon, and recovered a verdict. The present writ of error is brought to review the instructions given by the court to the jury on the trial. The case, as appears by the bill of exceptions, was substantially as follows: The collision occurred in a cut about five feet in depth, in which the wagon-road crossed the railroad on a level therewith nearly at right angles, descending to it on each side by an excavation. The train was a special one, coming from the north, and did not stop at the station, which was four hundred or five hundred feet north of the crossing, and none of the regular trains were due at that time, although special trains were occasionally run over the road. The plaintiff was going east, away from the village, following another wagon, and in approaching the railroad track could not see a train coming from the north, by reason of the cut and intervening obstructions. There was evidence tending to show that the plaintiff, though he looked to the southward (from which direction the next regular train was to come), did not look northwardly; that his wagon produced much noise as it moved over the frozen ground; that his hearing was somewhat impaired; and that he did not stop before attempting to cross the track; also, evidence tending to show that the engineer in charge of the train used all efforts in his power to stop it after he saw the plaintiff's wagon on the track. The evidence was conflicting as to whether the customary and proper signals were given by those in charge of the locomotive, and as to the rate of speed the train was running at the time, some witnesses testifying that it was at an unusual and improper rate, and others the contrary.

The counsel for the railroad company requested the court to

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adopt certain specific instructions, to the general effect that the plaintiff should have looked out for the train, and was chargeable with negligence in not having done so; that there was nothing peculiar in the crossing to forbid as high a rate of speed as would be proper in the case of other important highways; that an engineer is not bound to look to the right or left, but only ahead on the line of the railway, and has a right to expect that persons and teams will keep out of the way of the locomotive; and that it is the duty of those crossing the railroad to listen and look both ways along the railroad before going on it, and to ascertain whether a train is approaching or not.

The judge refused to adopt the instructions framed by counsel, but charged, in effect, as follows: that both parties were bound to exercise such care as, under ordinary circumstances, would avoid danger; such care as men of common prudence and intelligence would ordinarily use under like circumstances; that the amount of care required depended on the risk of danger; that, where the view...

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