Atchison Ry Co v. Toops

Decision Date14 April 1930
Docket NumberNo. 303,303
Citation50 S.Ct. 281,281 U.S. 351,74 L.Ed. 896
PartiesATCHISON, T. & S. F. RY. CO. v. TOOPS
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. William Osmond, of Great Bend, Kan., and William R. Smith and Alfred A. Scott, both of Topeka, Kan., for petitioner.

Mr. Carr W. Taylor, of Hutchinson, Kan., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent, plaintiff below, brought suit in the District Court of Reno county, Kan., to recover under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 USCA §§ 51-59) for the death of her intestate. Judgment in her favor was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Kansas, 128 Kan. 189, 277 P. 57. This court granted certiorari October 21, 1929, on a petition which urged as grounds for allowance of the writ that there was no evidence of negligence in the case or that any act of petitioner caused the death.

Decedent was a conductor in charge of petitioner's freight train, engaged in interstate commerce, while en route easterly from Elkhart to Dodge City, Kan. He was killed near the station at Rolla, Kan., at about 1 o'clock in the morning, in the course of a switching operation under his direction. At that point, north of the main line, and connected with it by switches, is a 'passing track' with an extension at its easterly end known as a 'stock track.' South of the station, which is south of the main line, is a switching track, referred to as an 'elevator track,' which forms a junction with the main line some three hundred feet or more east of the station platform.

On the night of the accident two switching operations were to be carried out by deceased at Rolla. The first, which was successfully completed, consisted of removing four loaded grain cars from the elevator track and coupling them, deceased assisting, to the train standing west of the station on the main line. The second involved the removal of fifteen empty grain cars, coupled to twelve stock cars, from the passing and stock tracks to the main line, and thence 'kicking' the grain cars onto the elevator track, that is, the train of grain and stock cars was to be pushed by the engine westerly along the main line and the fifteen grain cars uncoupled from the westerly end of the stock cars while still in motion and before the stock cars had reached the switch to the elevator track, thus propelling the grain cars from the main line to the elevator track. The stock cars were then to be kicked back onto the passing track by a similar movement, after which the engine was to be coupled to the grain cars standing on the elevator track and they were to be spotted at desired locations on that track. Under the rules of petitioner, deceased was required to attend personally to these switching movements.

There were no eyewitnesses to the accident. Deceased was last seen alive, standing, lantern and train book in hand, on the east end of the station platform. Plaintiff's own witnesses testified, without contradiction that shortly before one of the two brakemen of the train crew had read to the other and to deceased the switching list calling for the movement of the grain cars, and had then said that he would kick the cars onto the elevator track, to which deceased replied: 'All right I will look out for them.' After the grain cars had been kicked onto the elevator track and the stock cars onto the passing track, the engine was coupled to the grain cars and the spotting movement begun, when the body of the deceased was discovered. It was lying under the engine tender diagonally across the elevator track, with the shoulder against a 'derail' about one hundred and eighty feet west of the switch, connecting the elevator track with the main line, and about the same distance from the point on the platform where decedent had last been seen alive. His feet were toward the north, his head and arm had been severed from his body and lay just south of the track. His cap, lantern, and lead pencil were lying near, together, south of the elevator track two or three feet from the south rail. His train book was found lying in the center of the track between the rails. The surface of the track between the rails showed that his body, after it had fallen to the ground, had been moved or dragged westward two or three feet until his shoulders were jammed against the derail. There were no marks of flesh or blood on any part of the first grain car indicating that it had come into contact with the body of the deceased. There was uncontradicted testi- mony that such marks of flesh and blood were found upon the south wheels of each of the succeeding fourteen grain cars and the engine tender.

It was controverted whether, within the meaning of printed rules of petitioner, the place of the accident was at a 'station' or in a 'yard.' The rules required that, when cars were pushed...

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    ...reasonably be drawn that the injury suffered was caused by the negligent act of the employer." Atchison, T. & S.F. Ry. Co. v. Toops, 281 U.S. 351, 354-355 [50 S.Ct. 281, 74 L.Ed. 896] (1930). "[A]lthough a plaintiff need not make a showing that the employer's negligence was the sole cause, ......
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