Christianson v. Chi., St. P., M. & O. Ry. Co.

Decision Date28 December 1896
Citation69 N.W. 640,67 Minn. 94
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court
PartiesCHRISTIANSON v CHICAGO, ST. P., M. & O. RY. CO.

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

(Syllabus by the Court.)

1. Evidence considered, and held sufficient to justify the jury in finding (1) that defendant's servants were negligent; (2) that such negligence was the proximate cause of plaintiff's injury; (3) that plaintiff was not guilty of contributory negligence; (4) that he had not settled and released his claims against the defendant for damages.

2. Where an act is negligent, the person committing it is liable for any injury proximately resulting from it, although he could not have reasonably anticipated that injury would result in the form or way in which it did, in fact, happen.

Appeal from district court, Jackson county; P. E. Brown, Judge.

Action by Alfred Christianson against the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway Company. Verdict for plaintiff. From an order refusing a new trial, defendant appeals. Affirmed.

Lorin Cray, for appellant.

T. J. Knox and L. F. Lammers, for respondent.

MITCHELL, J.

This action, which was here on a former appeal (61 Minn. 249, 63 N. W. 639), was brought to recover for personal injuries caused by the alleged negligence of defendant's servants. The defenses interposed were (1) that defendant was not guilty of any negligence; (2) that plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence; (3) accord and satisfaction. The plaintiff was in defendant's employ as a section hand. On the day in question, he and two other sectionmen started easterly on a hand car, to meet their section foreman. In the meantime, another section crew, with plaintiff's section foreman, had started westerly from another point, on another hand car. When the two cars came within a short distance of each other, those on the west-bound signaled those on the east-bound car to go back. Thereupon those on the latter ear turned back, and both cars proceeded westerly, the car on which plaintiff was going ahead, and the other car following. It appears from the evidence that those on the rear car had, before starting out that morning, imbibed several drinks of whisky; and that, while both cars were going westerly, some of them once or twice signaled to those on the forward car as if wanting them to go faster. The only significance of this is that it may in part, at least, account for the conduct of those on the rear car. This part of the railroad was a downgrade of from 52 to 58 feet to the mile, and the track was wet and somewhat slippery. The cars were running down this grade at a rate of speed variously estimated at from 10 to 20 miles an hour. The front car, on which plaintiff was, was of old style, not capable of as great a rate of speed as the rear car; and, owing to the nature of its gearing, the handles attached to the lever moved very rapidly; so much so that it was difficult for one standing on the car to hold on to them. Plaintiff was standing on the rear end of the car, with nothing to hold on to except these handles. The other two men were on the front end of the car where the brake was. The usual disance at which hand cars kept apart, according to the rules of the company, was “three telegraph poles,” which would be 540 feet. At the rate of speed at which it was going, the rear car could not have been brought to a stop by the application of the brake in less than 100 feet. The cars had traveled in this way about a mile and a quarter, the rear car gaining on the forward one, until it got within 60 feet of it. The plaintiff testified that at this point he looked back, and, seeing the other car so near, and going so fast, became dizzy, lost his balance, and fell off. It is perhaps unimportant whether his fall was the result of fright caused by seeing the other rapidly moving car so near, or whether he accidentally lost his hold on the handle of the lever, and lost his balance. The fact is undisputed that he did fall off. We think the evidence shows that, after the men on the rear car saw him fall, they did all they could to stop their car; but going, as they were, at so great a rate of speed, and being within 60 feet of the front car, it was impossible for them to avoid colliding with the plaintiff. The result was that the car ran upon him while lying on the track, and inflicted very severe injuries.

We fail to discover any evidence of contributory negligence on plaintiff's part. The only thing which it is suggested that he ought to have done was to have made some effort to slacken the speed of the car on which he was riding. As the most imminent source of danger would seem to have been the close proximity of the rear car, it is not apparent how this would have helped matters. Moreover, it appears that plaintiff was an ignorant man, with little or no experience in railroad work; and that those on the rear car, of whom his own foreman was one, were signaling the front car to go faster. The very most that can be claimed for the evidence is that the question of plaintiff's contributory negligence was for the jury.

2. That, under the evidence, the question of the negligence of those on the rear car was for the jury, we have no doubt. The usual practice, in accordance with the rules of the company, for hand cars, when going in the same direction, to maintain a distance between them of “three telegraph poles,” was founded upon the plainest dictates of common prudence. The faster the cars were going, and the greater the distance required to stop the rear car, the greater was the necessity for the observance of this rule, so as to avoid injury in case of accident to the front car or those riding upon it. But in this case, although the cars were going at a high rate of speed on the downgrade and a slippery track, those on the rear car allowed it to come within only a little over half the distance of the front car in which they could have stopped had any accident befallen the front car or its occupants. The jury were amply justified in finding that, in so doing, the occupants of the rear car were guilty of negligence.

3. The main contention, however, of defendant's counsel, is that, conceding that those on the rear car were negligent, yet plaintiff's injuries were not the proximate result of such negligence; or, perhaps to state their position more accurately, that it is not enough to entitle plaintiff to recover that his injuries were the natural consequence of this negligence, but that it must also appear that, under all the circumstances, it might have been reasonably anticipated that such injury would result. With this legal premise assumed, counsel argues that those on the rear car could not have reasonably anticipated that plaintiff would fall from the car. It is laid down in many cases and by some text...

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274 cases
  • Beaulieu v. Great N. Ry. Co.
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • December 27, 1907
    ...21 Minn. 225); and the larger measure of recovery in tort cases is clear beyond controversy. See for example, Christianson v. Chicago, etc., Ry. Co., 67 Minn. 94,59 N. W. 640. It is equally certain that it has applied the tort measure of damages to cases in which a passenger was not carried......
  • Pettes v. Jones.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court
    • March 29, 1937
    ...it does not determine causation; nor does it determine proximate causation.” In the much-quoted case of Christianson v. Chicago, St. P., M. & O. Ry. Co., 67 Minn. 94, 69 N.W. 640, 641, Mr. Justice Mitchell gives a terse statement of the true rule. He says: “What a man may reasonably anticip......
  • Busta v. Columbus Hosp. Corp.
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • May 10, 1996
    ...not at all decisive in determining whether that act is the proximate cause of an injury which ensues." [Christianson v. Chicago St. P., M. & O. Ry. Co. (1896), 67 Minn. 94, 69 N.W. 640.] And the Wisconsin court has This court is definitely committed to the principle that, while foreseeabili......
  • Petition of Kinsman Transit Company
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • October 29, 1964
    ...259 Minn. 452, 107 N.W.2d 859, 97 A.L.R.2d 866 (1961), of Mr. Justice Mitchell's statement in Christianson v. Chicago, St. P., M. & O. Ry., 67 Minn. 94, 96, 69 N.W. 640, 641 (1896), that the rule of Hadley v. Baxendale, 9 Exch. 341 (1854), has no place in negligence law. Other American cour......
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