Bryan v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Co.

Decision Date25 April 1884
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Appeal from Polk Circuit Court.

ACTION by a passenger upon a train, running on defendant's railroad, for injuries sustained from insolent, abusive and offensive words spoken to her by the conductor. There was a judgment upon a verdict for defendant. Plaintiff appeals.


Baylies & Baylies, for appellant.

Wright Cummins & Wright, for appellee.




The questions which we find to be decisive of the case arise upon instructions to the jury. It is, therefore, not necessary to recite the pleadings, nor to state the evidence farther than is required for a proper understanding of the points ruled in this opinion. In the charge to the jury preliminary to the instructions, the circuit court stated quite fully the substance of the allegations of the petition, and then informed the jury that the defendant denied in the answer all averments of the petition. Thereupon the jury were directed in these words: "For a more precise and exact statement of the allegations of the parties and the issues in the case see the pleadings themselves." This language must be understood as an admission that the issues were not precisely and accurately stated by the court, and a direction to the jury to determine for themselves from the pleadings the issues in the case. Indeed, the court did not attempt to state the issues in the case, but simply recited the allegations of the pleadings, which is quite a different thing. The issues are determined from the allegations, and the court could not require the jury to do this. That duty rested upon the court. The instruction is clearly erroneous. See Fitzgerald v. McCarty, 55 Iowa 702, 8 N.W. 646 and cases cited.

II. The jury were directed that the burden rested upon plaintiff to establish the allegations of the petition by a preponderance of evidence, and in another instruction they were informed that she was required to prove her allegations "by a fair preponderance of evidence." The court therein informs the jury that "by the term 'preponderance of evidence' is meant testimony of such superior weight and convincing force as satisfies the mind of its truth." This definition is clearly erroneous and misleading. The term simply means the greater weight of evidence. And, when a jury are informed that their verdict should accord with "the preponderance of evidence," they are simply directed that they should find for the party upon any issue in the case, who adduces thereon the greatest quantity of credible evidence, as weighed in their own minds. In weighing evidence, if any should not be entitled to belief, it should be cast out of the balance. Doubtful and uncertain evidence should be weighed for just what it is worth. When evidence is weighed according to the rules of the law, the preponderance is with that side in whose favor the scales of reason turn. The language used by the court conveys no idea connected with the quantity of evidence which would be regarded as a preponderance,...

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1 cases
  • Bryan v. Chi., R. I. & P. Ry. Co.
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • April 25, 1884
    ...63 Iowa 46419 N.W. 295BRYANv.CHICAGO, R. I. & P. RY. CO.Supreme Court of Iowa.Filed April 25, ... ...

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