Gunn v. Ohio River R. Co.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtBRANNON, J.
Citation42 W.Va. 676
PartiesGunn v. Ohio River R. Co.
Decision Date09 December 1896

42 W.Va. 676

Gunn
v.
Ohio River R. Co.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted September 12, 1896
Decided December 9, 1896.


[42 W.Va. 676]

1. Demurrers to Evidence,

The syllabus in Garrett v. Bamsey, 26 W. Va. 345, upon demurrers to evidence, approved.

2. Infants Contributory Negligence

A child of very tender years is not chargeable with contributory negligence

8. Railroads Trainmen Ordinary Care.

The engineer and fireman of a railroad train must keep a

[42 W.Va. 677]

care-ful lookout on the track ahead to discover persons and animals upon it, and use ordinary care to avoid injury to them.

4. Railroads Infants.

While it may be assumed by the engineer that a person walking upon a railroad track will get off it in time to save himself from injury from a train, yet that is not the rule as to children of very tender years, or persons plainly and obviously disabled by deafness, intoxication, sleep, or other cause from taking care of themselves.

5. Parents' Negligence.

Parents' negligence. When it prevents recovery for injury to children.

6. Demurrer to Evidence.

Demurrer to evidence, principles of.

W. R. Gunn, C. E. Hogg and J. E. Beller for plaintiff in error, cited 20 W. Va. 223, 345; 24 W. Va. 551; 33 W. Va. 152; 30 W. Va. 27; 8 W. Va. 553, 558; 25 W. Va. 570, 622, 641, 642; 33 W. Va. 135, 320; 38 W. Va. 645; 6 W. Va. 508; 18 W. Va. 579; 20 W. Va. 46; 26 W. Va 345, 455; 10 W. Va. 546, 560; 12 W. Va. 116, 123; 36 W. Va. 173, 174, 165; 37 W. Va. 197, 421; 9 W. Va. 252, 271; 17 W. Va. 190, 202; 15 W. Va. 628; 32 W. Va. 436, 487; 20 S. E. Rep. 550; 99 Pa. St. 398; 126 Mass. 877; 65 Ala. 74; 56 Ala. 507; 16 W. Va. 308; 25 W. Va. 692; 39 W. Va. 658; 21 W. Va. 224, 709; 2 Gratt. 18, 28; 25 Kan. 38; 66 Mich. 390; 75 Mo. 595; 5 Tex. Civ. App. 195; 114 K C. 699; Deer. Neg. § 261; Pierce Rds. p. 336; 60 Mo. 475; 34 Am. & Eng. R. R. Cas. 318; 38 Am. Rep. 67; 38 Neb. 91; 95 Mo. 286; 94 Mo. 600; 58 Tex. 27; 6 Am. & Eng. R. R. Cas. 11; 8 Am. & Eng. R. R. Cas. 65; 4 Am. & Eng. R, R. Cas. 562; 28 Am. & Eng. R. R. Cas. 565; 52 N. J. L. 446; 21 L. R. A. 76 and note; Beach, Contrib. Neg. § 42; 78 Iowa, 396; 17 Wall, 657; 4 Am. & Eng. Enc. Law, 88; 21 Wend. 615; 88 Va. 267; 22 Vt. 214; 2 Mackey (D. C.) 437; 43 La. Ann. 63; 64 Mich. 494; 85 Mich. 280; 109 Ind. 179; 5 Rand. 1, 2; 3 Leigh, 147; 23 Gratt. 619-38; 31 Gratt. 812; 29 W. Va. 98; 30 W, Va. 228; 35 W. Va. 389; 106 111. 563; 18 111. App. 142; 104 Ind. 293; 102 Ind. 146; 32 Kan. 533; 1 Shearm. & Red. Neg. §§ 75, 130; Whart. Neg. § 311; 2 Wood Ry. Law, 1284; 31 Kan. 1; 19 Kan. 382; 2 Tuck. Comm. 291, 292; 18 Iowa, 277; 4 Iowa, 63; 7 Cranch, 565; 11 Serg. & R. (Pa.) 329; 1 Stew.

[42 W.Va. 678]

(Ala.) 320; 1 Cranch, C. Ct. 60; 2 Cranch, C. Ct. 373; 12 Fla. 552; 3 111. (2 Scam.) 236; 83 Iowa:) 270; 13 Mo. App. 462; 5 Am. R. R. & Corp. Rep. 68; 39 Minn. 413; 96 Mo. 509; 34 W. Va. 764; 21 Wend. 615; 34 Am. Dec. 273; 52 K J. L. 446; 27 Gratt. 455; 18 Ohio St. 408; 59 Tex. 64; 113 Pa. St. 412; 22 Vt. 214; 26 Conn. 591; 92 Pa. St. 450; 83 Ala. 371; 17 Wall. 657; 41 W. Va. 511; Beach. Con. Neg. § 130;Bish. Non-Con. Law, § 352; 66 Miss. 560; 85 Mich. 280; 57 Pa. St. 172; 113 Pa. St. 412; 24 Ohio St. 631, 670; 43 Ohio St. 91; 60 Tex. 205; 33 111. App. 450; 138 111. 370; 83 Ala. 381; 16 Neb. 139; 88 Va. 267; 78 Iowa, 396; Beach. Contrib. Feg. (2d Ed.) § 131; 2 Thomp. Neg. 1191; Whart. Feg. § 310; 3 Lawson Rights, Rem. & Pr. 2135; Bish. Noncont. Law, §§ 578-580; Ray, Neg. Imp. Duties, 732-733; 98 Ind. 186; 116 Ind. 121; 43 Ohio St. 91; 36 Ohio St. 86; 105 111. 364; 113 Pa. St. 544; 66 Md. 149; 46 Mich. 596; 39 K W. Rep. 516; 35 Minn. 522; 47 K J. Law, 161; 66 K Y. 11; 71 N. Y. 228; 84 K Y. 247; 88 Ga. 60; Code, c. 130, ss. 5, 6; 25 L. R. A. 564; 29 L. R. A. 145; 5 L. R. A. 340; 100 K C. 240; 31 W. Va. 82; 13 W. Va. 230; 15 W. Va. 323.

H. P. Camden, V. B. Archer and Jas. B. Menager for defendant in error.

H. P. Camden:

I. In this State a railroad company owes to a child of apparently tender years the duty of observing ordinary precaution to discover the child, if upon the track, and to avoid injuring the child after it is seen. 36 W. Va. 173; 39 W. Va. 56.

II. If unexplained evidence shows that the child could have been discovered in time to have avoided the accident, if a reasonable look out had been kept then it is a presumption of law that such look-out was not kept. 34 W. Va. 541.

III. Ordinary care is a variable quality, and whether a lookout is reasonable, or not, must be determined by the circumstances of each case. -36 W. Va. 172; 47 Pa. St. 300; 47 Am. Rep. 709; 55 111. App. 588; 38 Neb. 90; 114 1ST. C. 699; 2 Woods, R'ds § 320.

IV. The evidence to justify a verdict need not exclude every possible hypothesis of due care, but it must exclude every probable one. 8 C. B. (N. S.) 268; 3 App. Cas. 1155.

[42 W.Va. 679]

V. In order to recover in this case it must be shown that the child could have been seen by the engineer a sufficient distance from the place of disaster, so that the train could have been stopped. Woods, Ry. Vol. 2, § 320; 24 S. E. Rep. 698.

VI. Presumptions to be legally sufficient to rest verdicts upon must be conclusions from facts proven or admitted in the case. 92 Pa. St. 434; 29 Barb. 234; 58 Md. 221; 56 Wis. 338; 100 Pa. St. 144.

VII. The question of negligence is to be determined irrespective of the wealth or poverty of the parent. Pat. Ry. Ac. Law, § 81; 2 Red. Ry. Cas. 501; 34 111. App. 215; 103 Ind. 328; 4 West (Ind.) 250; 7 Out. L. J. 311; 104 N. Y. 669.

VIII. It is contributory negligence per se for a parent to permit an infant of tender years to play upon the cars or track of a railroad company. 15 Am. & Eng. R. R. Cas. 403; 2 Am. & Eng. R. R. Cas. 4; Id. 12; 4 Am. & Eng. R. R. Cas. 608; 83 Ala. 371.

IX. In this case the question of negligence is not one for a jury. Thomp. JSTeg. Rules, Dec. Op. p. 365 and cases there cited; 22 Wall, 121; 17 Mich. 99; 109 IT. S. 478; Shear. & R. Neg. § 56, note 2 p, 69.

X. Contributory negligence of the parent will preclude a re-

covery unless the trainmen, after the child was actually discovered, omitted reasonable precaution to avoid the injury. Shear. & R. Neg. § 483, note 2; 33 K W. Rep. 867; 56 Cal. 513; 4 Am. &Eng. R. R. Cas. 608; 24 S. E. Rep. 698.

V. B. Archer, cited 36 W. Va. 96, 171, 178, 179; 78 Ky. 621; 34 W. Va. 764; 26 W. Va. 455, 2d pt. syl; 10 Leigh, 155-64; 38 W. Va. 475, 669, 711; 37 W. Va. 38; 23 W. Va. 229; 95 Pa. St. 398; 8 Wright, 278; 31 P. E. Smith, 366; 25 P. F. Smith, 265; 4 L. R. A. 126; Beach, Con. Neg. (1st Ed.) p. 150, § 48; 9 W. Va. 252, 270; 17 W. Va. 190; 25 W. Va. 570; 32 W. Va. 436; 35 W. Va. 438, 562; 40 W. Va. 331; 23 W. Va. 229; 25 K Y. 361; 45 JN. Y. 549, 1st pt. syl.; 1 Cow. 110; 44 Am. Dec. 633; 16 Pet. 331.

Brannon, Judge:

Two little boys, Henry C. Mayes, not quite five years old, and Luelza Mayes, about six years old, were killed by a

[42 W.Va. 680]

train on the Ohio River Railroad, and this is a suit by the administrator of Henry C. Mayes against the Ohio River Railroad Company to recover damages for his death. The briefs of counsel are elaborate and able, laying down all the propositions arising, and citing all the law necessary for decision, and have been very helpful in the decision of the case.

If Henry C. Mayes had been an adult, no recovery could be had for his death, as he met his sad and early death on the railroad track, and the defense of contributory negligence would defeat recovery; but a child of the tender years of this child is not chargeable with contributory negligence, for want of judgment, discretion, and presence of mind to know and avoid danger. Dicken v. Coal Co. (this term) 41 W. Va 511 (23 S. E. 582); Westbrook v. Railroad Co. (Miss.) 6 South. 321; Bottoms v. Railroad Co. 114 K. C. 699 (19 S. E. 730); Summers v. Brewing Co. (Pa. Sup.) 22 Atl. 707. The law is clear that those in charge of a train must, by keeping up a reasonable lookout, use fairly ordinary care to discover animals and persons on the track, both to save them and passengers from injury. The public interest and necessity, not merely the company's, demand that the company have sole possession of its track; but, as people live and move along the route, they do go upon the track; children, in their thoughtlessness and indiscretion, will go upon it; stock will wander upon it; and sheer necessity calls for such care as is exacted by this rule. Gunn v. Railroad Co. 36 W. Va. 165 (14 S. E. 465); 2 Wood, Ry. Law, § 320; opinions in Raines v. Railroad Co. 39 W. Va. 50 (19 S. E. 565). Some courts hold that no duty lies on the company to look ahead for persons on the track, as it has exclusive right to its track except at crossings, and they are trespassers; but we have held that there must be a lookout even for live stock and ordinary care to prevent injury to it. Layne v. Railroad, Co. 35 W. Va. 438 (14 S. E. 123) and cases. And, certainly, the same care would be required so far as infants, deaf and other disabled persons are concerned, if not as to others. But our Court has settled this in cases above cited. If a child trespassing on a railroad track is struck by an

[42 W.Va. 681]

en-gine, the company is liable if the engineer, by such careful and vigilant lookout as is consistent with other...

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