New York Cent Co v. Ambrose

Citation280 U.S. 486,50 S.Ct. 198,74 L.Ed. 562
Decision Date24 February 1930
Docket NumberNo. 73,73
PartiesNEW YORK CENT. R. CO. v. AMBROSE
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Messrs. William H. Carey, Albert C. Wall, and John A. Hartpence, all of Jersey City, N. J., for petitioner.

Messrs. A. O. Stanley, of Washington, D. C., and Alexander Simpson, of Jersey City, N. J., for respondent.

Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 USCA §§ 51-59) for the death of John Ambrose, as the result of an alleged negligent failure of the railroad company to furnish a safe place to work.

Ambrose had been employed for many years in a grain elevator belonging to the company and used to facilitate the shipment of grain in interstate commerce. He worked on the 'bin floor,' which lies above a large number of grain bins, and with each of which it is connected by a circular opening, seventeen inches in diameter, furnished with a spout to carry the grain from the floor into the bin, and by a rectangular manhole, twenty by sixteen and three-quarter inches in size. These openings, when not in use, are closed with metal covers resting on flanges and sunk to a level with the floor.

Ambrose's duties were to sweep the floor, help set the spouts, and generally to do such floor work as his foreman might direct. Sometimes grain became clogged so that it would not run out from the bin; in which event, one man would descend into the bin to clean it out, while another lowered and held a light in such position as to assist the former in the performance of his work. This work was rarely done and only upon an order from the foreman or superintendent.

A short time prior to the accident, with the consent of the superintendent, a representative of a company not connected with the railroad was permitted to make an experiment in one of the bins for the extermination of weevil and other insects, which sometimes got into the grain. This experiment was conducted by mingling with the grain, as it moved through the bin, a powder, which generated a poisonous gas supposed to destroy the insects. In conducting the experiment, forty small bags containing weevil were dropped into the grain. After the experiment, one of the bags which had failed to come through was found lodged within the bin, but it was not intended or thought necessary to remove it. Ambrose was present when the foreman lowered a droplight into the bin and disclosed the bag, and was told by the foreman to keep away from the bin as much as possible, not to 'hang around' it, that the gas was poisonous.

The following morning the only men at work on the floor were the foreman, Ambrose, and another employee. Both covers were in place, and Ambrose was engaged in sweeping the floor. The foreman went to another part of the premises, but, about twenty minutes later, hearing a noise 'like something hitting,' returned to the floor. He then found the covers of both openings off, and an electric droplight hanging through the spouthole into the bin. Looking down he saw Ambrose's body lying at the botton. There is no evidence to show how the covers were removed or the circumstances under which Ambrose entered the bin and so came to his death.

The case was tried before a state circuit court, and the jury returned a verdict for the respondent, upon which there was a final judgment. Upon appeal to the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals, the judges were equally divided; and the...

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    ...O.R. Co. v. Mihas, 280 U.S. 102, 50 S.Ct. 42, 74 L.Ed. 207; affirmance of judgment for plaintiff reversed. New York Central R. Co. v. Ambrose, 280 U.S. 486, 50 S.Ct. 198, 74 L.Ed. 562; affirmance of judgment for plaintiff reversed. New York Central R. Co. v. Marcone, 281 U.S. 345, 50 S.Ct. ......
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    ...472, 46 S.Ct. 564, 70 L.Ed. 1041; Missouri Pac. R. Co. v. Aeby, 275 U.S. 426, 48 S.Ct. 177, 72 L.Ed. 351; New York Central R. Co. v. Ambrose, 280 U.S. 486, 50 S.Ct. 198, 74 L.Ed. 562. And so it was that a goodly portion of the relief which Congress had provided employees was withheld from T......
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    ...Fe Ry. Co. v. Toops, 281 U.S. 351; Labor Board v. Columbian Co., 306 U.S. 292; Looney v. Metropolitan R. Co., 200 U.S. 480; N.Y.C.R. Co. v. Ambrose, 280 U.S. 486. This is also the rule in Missouri. State ex rel. Mo. Public Utility Co. v. Cox, 298 Mo. 427; State ex rel. City of Macon v. Trim......
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