Johnson v. Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Co.

Decision Date21 December 1908
Docket Number13,581
Citation94 Miss. 447,47 So. 785
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

FROM the circuit court of Warren county, HON. JOHN N. BUSH, Judge.

Johnson the appellant, was plaintiff in the court below and the railroad company, appellee, was defendant there. From a judgment in defendant's favor predicated of a peremptory instruction the plaintiff appealed to the supreme court.

The action was for recovery of damage for personal injury alleged to have been caused by defendant's negligence. The opinion of the court states the facts.

Reversed and remanded.

N. Vick Robbins, and Alexander & Alexander, for appellant.

The conduct of complainant in walking out on the platform was not contributory negligence as a matter of law. Dougherty v Yazoo, etc., R. Co., 84 Miss. 502, 36 So. 699; Yazoo etc., R. Co. v. Byrd, 89 Miss. 308, 42 So. 286.

Whether the placing of the box in the passageway on' the platform of the vestibule and leaving the vestibule door open on an unlighted platform, is such reasonably safe operation of the train as to excuse defendant, whether it were the usual and ordinary operation or not, is for the jury.

Fore v. Alabama, etc., R. Co., 87 Miss. 211, 39 So. 493, 690; Thompson v. Yazoo, etc., R. Co., 72 Miss. 715, 17 So. 229; Bronson v. Oakes, 22 C. C. A. 520, 40 U. S. App. 413, 76 F. 734; Sioux City, etc., R. Co. v. Stout, 17 Wall. 657, 21 L.Ed. 745; Grand Trunk R. Co. v. Ives, 144 U.S. 408, 417, 428, 36 L.Ed. 485, 489, 492, 12 S.Ct. 679, 683, 687; Jones v. East Tennessee, V. & G. R. Co., 128 U.S. 443, 32 L.Ed. 478, 9 S.Ct. 118; Scott v. New Orleans, 21 C. C. A. 402, 41 U. S. App. 498, 75 F. 373; Detroit & M. R. Co. v. Van Steinburg, 17 Mich. 99; Augusta R. Co. v. Glover, 92 Ga. 132, 18 S.E. 406; Milwaukee & St. P. R. Co. v. Kellogg, 94 U.S. 469, 24 L.Ed. 256; Northern P. R. Co. v. Adams, 54 C. C. A. 196, 116 F. 324; Burt v. Douglas County Street R. Co., 83 Wis. 229, 18 L. R. A. 479, 53 N.W. 447; Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Head, 22 Ky. L. Rep. 863, 59 S.W. 23; McAfee v. Huidekoper, 9 App. D. C. 36, 34 L. R. A. 720; International & G. N. R. Co. v. Welsh (Tex. Civ. App.) 24 S.W. 854; Bonner v. Glenn, 79 Tex. 531, 15 S.W. 573; Illinois C. R. Co. v. O'Keefe, 154 Ill. 508, 39 N. E.. 606; Dewire v. Boston & M. R. Co., 148 Mass. 343, 2 L. R. A. 166, 19 N.E. 523; Cotchett v. Savannah & T. R. Co., 84 Ga. 687, 11 S.E. 553; Gerstle v. Union P. R. Co., 23 Mo.App. 361; San Antonio & A. P. R. Co. v. Choate, 22 Tex. Civ. App. 618, 56 S.W. 214; Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Berg, 17 Ky. L. Rep. 1105, 32 S.W. 616; Graham v. McNeil, 20 Wash. 466, 43 L. R. A. 300, 72 Am. St. Rep. 121, 55 P. 631; Hutchinson on Carriers (2d ed.), §§ 652, 1193; Beach on Contrib. Neg. § 3, p. 7; 3 Thomp. Neg. § 2953; Moore v. Lanier, 53 Fla. 353, 42 So. 462; Doolittle v. Southern R. Co., 62 C. C. A. 130, 40 S.E. 133; Illinois C. N. Co. v. Bethea, 88 Miss. 119, 40 So. 815; Boss v. Northern P. R. Co., 5 Dak. 308, 40 N.W. 590.

Mayes & Longstreet, for appellee.

(The brief of counsel for appellee was lost before the record came into the hands of the reporter, hence no synopsis of their brief can here be given.)

Argued orally by N. Vick Robbins, for appellant.



On the 10th day of August, 1907, Samuel Johnson took passage on the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad for the purpose of going from Merigold to Vicksburg. The train on which he embarked was a fast train, commonly called the "Cannon Ball," and vestibuled throughout. The train was a night train, and due at Vicksburg about 12:40 a. m. It seems that after the train whistled for Vicksburg the porter passed through the car where Johnson was, carrying with him a box of some kind, which he placed on the platform, and himself returned inside. After this was done, Johnson got up and got a drink of water, and decided to walk out on the platform, and when he did so his feet came in contact with the box which had been placed in the vestibule by the porter, and be was thrown out, sustaining very serious injuries. It seems that the box was not setting in the passageway leading from car to car, but had been set just outside in the passageway leading to the steps. When the porter went out to set the box down, he not only did this, but for the purpose of subserving his own convenience he raised the trapdoor over the steps and opened the door of the vestibule leaving the vestibule in the nighttime in this unprotected condition, and without light or guard of any kind, and so it was at the time Johnson went out on the platform. The porter testified that, when he went out to open the vestibule and deposit the box in question, Johnson was standing out on the platform, and he told him to go inside the car off the platform; but this is disputed by Johnson. In short, the proof shows that as the train approached Vicksburg this porter, to subserve his own convenience, took this box, placed it in the passageway leading down the steps, opened the trapdoor over the steps, and threw open the vestibule door, so as to permit ingress and egress when the train should stop, returning immediately to the interior of the car, and Johnson, unconscious of the condition of the vestibule as left by the porter, walked out on the platform, stumbled on this box, fell off, plunged down the steps and through the vestibule door, sustaining injuries which subsequently resulted in the amputation of his leg. These are the substantial facts of the case, at least as made out by plaintiff's testimony. On the above facts the trial court gave a peremptory instruction to find for the defendant.

It cannot be declared as a matter of law that a passenger on a railway train is guilty of negligence per se merely because he rides on the platform of a moving train. Whether he is guilty of such contributory negligence as will defeat a recovery for any injury received while there must depend upon the facts of each particular case. In view of the many modern improvements for safety in railway cars, platforms, train appliances, etc., chief among which is the modern vestibule train, with its close couplings and housed passageways leading from car to car, standing as an invitation by the railway to greater freedom in the use of all parts of its cars by passengers, and making travel almost as safe on the platform as elsewhere, it is readily seen that the rules announced by the older decisions can have but little application, when the only negligence charged is that of riding on the platform of such a train. This is recognized in Hutchinson on Carriers (3d ed.), vol. 3, p. 1406, note 35 and authorities. The same authority says, on page 1407, that "in an action by the passenger, who has received an injury while riding upon the platform of a moving railway car, it would be essential to the defense of the company that the passenger's imprudence in assuming such a position should have been the proximate cause of the injury." In volume 29, p. 417, Cyc., it is said that: "Negligence is a relative term, and depends upon the circumstances of each particular case. What might be negligence under some circumstances, at some time or place, may not be negligence under other circumstances, at another time and place. All the surrounding or attendant circumstances must be taken into account, if the question involved is one of negligence, such as the opportunity for deliberation, degree of danger, and many other considerations or like nature, affecting the standard of care which may reasonably be required in the particular case." In the case of V. & M. Ry. Co. v. McGowan, 62 Miss. 682, 52 Am. Rep. 205, in that part of the opinion to be found on page 694 of 62 Miss. (52 Am. Rep. 205), this court has said: "There is in the books much confusion on the subject of contributory negligence. . . . Contributory negligence is the want of ordinary care to avoid injury from the act of another. One must use diligence or ordinary care to avoid injury from another, failing in which he may not recover for what by such diligence or care he might have avoided. Whether in any case the plaintiff used the requisite care to avoid injury depends on the circumstances in which he was called to act." In the case of Miss. Cent. R. Co. v. Mason, 51 Miss. 234, in that part of opinion to be found on page 244, this court said: "Where the negligence of the defendant is proximate, and...

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