Klein v. Boston Elevated Ry. Co.

Decision Date05 February 1936
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court


Report from Superior Court, Suffolk County; Keating, Judge.

Action of tort by Frank Klein against the Boston Elevated Railway Company, where there was a verdict for the plaintiff in the sum of $5,000. On report from the superior court.

Judgment on the verdict.

J. J. O'Hare, of Quincy, for plaintiff.

J. E. Hannigan, of Boston, for defendant.

DONAHUE, Justice.

The plaintiff's declaration alleges ‘that on or about the 18th day of January, 1930, he received severe personal injuries on account of the negligence of the defendant company, its agents and servants.’ The case was tried in the superior court before a jury. A special question submitted to the jury asking whether written notice of the time, place and cause of the plaintiff's injury was given by the plaintiff or his wife and received by the defendant was answered in the affirmative, and a verdict returned for the plaintiff. The trial judge reported the case to this court on a stipulation which provided that if the defendant's motion for a directed verdict should have been allowed, verdict is to be entered for the defendant. If * * * there was an error prejudicially affecting the rights of the defendant in the refusal to grant any of the requests of the defendant for rulings and instructions a new trial shall be granted. If * * * the denial of the defendant's motion for a directed verdict was correct and * * * there was no prejudicial error in the refusal to grant any of the defendant's requests for rulings and instructions, the verdict returned by the jury for the plaintiff is to stand.’

The following facts were not in dispute. The plaintiff arrived at the Columbia Station, one of the stations of the so called Dorchester-Cambridge Tunnel, at about 11:15 in the forenoon of January 18, 1930. He paid his fare, entered the station and then walked along the platform about fifty feet from the entrance toward the rear car of a four-car train which was standing on the east side of the platform waiting for passengers bound in town. When he was near the rear door of the rear car he slipped on ice on the platform and was injured. The Columbia Station is not underground and has an open platform about twenty-three feet wide, where tranis going in town stop on the east side and trains going in the opposite direction on the west side. Trains stop there to receive and discharge passengers on either side every three and a half minutes. The platform was protected from the weather only by a roof which did not go beyond the edge of the platform. On the east of the station is Dorchester Bay which is a short distance away. At the time of the plaintiff's accident it was raining and sleeting and the temperature was below the freezing point. The official weather report from the Boston Weather Bureau showed that it had been freezing or near freezing from seven o'clock that morning until noon, and that from eight to eleven the wind was southeast and after eleven it was east.

There was evidence introduced by the plaintiff which warranted the jury in finding the following additional facts. The plaintiff walked from the entrance in the center of the platform until he came to the open door of the rear car where he turned to his left to enter it. He walked along at an ordinary gait with his hands in his pockets looking down ahead of him to see where he was stepping and saw ‘nothing dangerous.’ At the place where the plaintiff slipped and fell there was a formation of ice which was about an inch thick at the edge of the platform and extended on to the platform to a point about two or three feet from its edge at which point it was thinner. There was no sand where the ice was on which the plaintiff fell.

The station was not the property of the defendant and it was not responsible for the method of its construction. The defendant admitted, however, that it was responsible for the reasonable care of the station. An inspector of the defendant, a part of whose duties it was to see that the station platforms were kept clean, was at the station in question on the day of the plaintiff's accident from twenty-five minutes of ten o'clock until after ten. He testified that there was a formation of ice all along the edge of the platform, that the rain was coming in on that side of the platform, freezing as it fell, that he spread sand along the edge of the platform but that the rain continuing to come on the platform froze over the sand. A porter of the defendant, whose place of work was at that station when the weather is stormy, testified that he came to the station that morning about twenty minutes after ten and spent half an hour sanding the easterly side of the platform.

It was the duty of the defendant to maintain its platform in a reasonably safe and suitable condition for its patrons who were rightfully using it. Anjou v. Boston Elevated R. Co., 208 Mass. 273, 94 N.E. 386,21 Ann.Cas. 1143;Fournier v. New York, New Haven & Hartford R. Co., 286 Mass. 7, 12, 189 N.E. 574, 92 A.L.R. 610;Ward v. Boston Terminal Co., 286 Mass. 517, 190 N.E. 726. On the evidence it could not here have been properly ruled as matter of law that the defendant performed this duty. The accident happened near the middle of the day. There was a formation of ice along the edge of the platform where passengers in boarding or leaving cars must of necessity go. It was not of temporary or transient existence. It was the result of conditions of weather and temperature which had existed for hours. The special danger from ice at that particular place was known to the defendant, and its employees charged with that duty had made ineffective efforts to remedy it. The jury was not obliged to accept the implication from the testimony of the inspector of the defendant that the condition was irremediable by the use of reasonable care. The fact that the storm had not ceased did not as matter of law relieve the defendant from the duty of making safe a place which the storm had rendered unsafe. Foster v. Old Colony Street R. Co., 182 Mass. 378, 65 N.E. 795;Kingston v. Boston Elevated Street R. Co., 207 Mass. 457, 93 N.E. 573;Parker v. Middlesex & Boston Street R. Co., 237 Mass. 291, 129 N.E. 353.

It could not rightly have been ruled as matter of law that the defendant had sustained the burden of proving...

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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • 6 Noviembre 1990
    ...accumulation of snow and/or ice. Plaintiff maintained, however, that, particularly in light of the holding in Klein v. Boston Elevated Ry., 293 Mass. 238, 200 N.E. 6 (1936), the Athas Athas v. United States, 904 F.2d 79 (1st Cir.1990) court misconstrued applicable Massachusetts A jury was e......
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