Patton v. Texas Pacific Railway Company, No. 123

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBrewer
Citation179 U.S. 658,21 S.Ct. 275,45 L.Ed. 361
PartiesE. M. PATTON, Plff. in Err. , v. TEXAS & PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY
Decision Date07 January 1901
Docket NumberNo. 123

179 U.S. 658
21 S.Ct. 275
45 L.Ed. 361
E. M. PATTON, Plff. in Err.,

v.

TEXAS & PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY.

No. 123.
Argued December 6, 7, 1900.
Decided January 7, 1901.

Plaintiff in error, plaintiff below, brought his action against the defendant to recover for injuries sustained while in its em-

Page 659

ploy as fireman. A judgment in his favor was reversed on April 10, 1894, by the circuit court of appeals. 9 C. C. A. 487, 23 U. S. App. 319, 61 Fed. Rep. 259. On a second trial in the circuit court the judge directed a verdict for the defendant, upon which judgment was rendered. This judgment was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals (37 C. C. A. 56, 95 Fed. Rep. 244), and thereupon the case was brought here on error.

The facts were that plaintiff was a fireman on a passenger train of the defendant, running from El Paso to Toyah and return. Some three or four hours after one of those trips had been made, and while the engine of which he was fireman was being moved in the railroad yards at El Paso, plaintiff attempted to step off the engine, and in doing so the step turned, and he fell so far under the engine that the wheels passed over his right foot, crushing it so that amputation became necessary. Plaintiff alleged that the step turned because the nut which held it was not securely fastened; that the omission to have it so fastened was negligence on the part of the company, for which it was liable.

Messrs. Frank W. Hackett and Millard Patterson for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. John F. Dillon, Winslow S. Pierce, and David D. Duncan for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice Brewer delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff's contention is that the trial court erred in directing a verdict for the defendant, and in failing to leave the question of negligence to the jury.

That there are times when it is proper for a court to direct a verdict is clear. 'It is well settled that the court may withdraw a case from them altogether, and direct a verdict for the plaintiff or the defendant, as the one or the other may be proper, where the evidence is undisputed, or is of such conclusive character that the court, in the exercise of a sound judicial discretion, would be compelled to set aside a verdict returned in op-

Page 660

position to it. Phoenix Mut. L. Ins. Co. v. Doster, 106 U. S. 30, 32, 27 L. ed. 66, 1 Sup. Ct. Rep. 18; Griggs v. Houston, 104 U. S. 553, 26 L. ed. 840; Randall v. Baltimore & O. R. Co. 109 U. S. 478, 482, 27 L. ed. 1003, 1005, 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 322; Anderson County Comrs. v. Beal, 113 U. S. 227, 241, 28 L. ed 966, 971, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 433; Schofield v. Chicago, M. & St. P. R. Co. 114 U. S. 615, 618, 29 L. ed. 224, 225, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1125; Delaware, L. & W. R. Co. v. Converse, 139 U. S. 469, 472, 35 L. ed. 213, 215, 11 Sup. Ct. Rep. 569.' See also Aerkfetz v. Humphreys, 145 U. S. 418, 36 L. ed. 758, 12 Sup. Ct. Rep. 835; Elliott v. Chicago, M. & St. P. R. Co. 150 U. S. 245, 37 L. ed. 1068, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 85.

It is undoubtedly true that cases are not to be lightly taken from the jury; that jurors are the recognized triers of questions of fact; and that ordinarily negligence is so far a question of fact as to be properly submitted to and determined by them. Richmond & D. R. Co. v. Powers, 149 U. S. 43, 37 L. ed. 642, 13 Sup. Ct. Rep. 748.

Hence it is that seldom an appellate court reverses the action of a trial court in declining to give a peremptory instruction for a verdict one way or the other. At the same time, the judge is primarily responsible for the just outcome of the trial. He is not a mere moderator of a town meeting, submitting questions to the jury for determination, nor simply ruling on the admissibility of testimony, but one who in our jurisprudence stands charged with full responsibility. He has the same opportunity that jurors have for seeing the witnesses, for noting all those matters in a trial not capable of record, and when in his deliberate opinion there is not excuse for a verdict save in favor of one party, and he so rules by instructions to that effect, an appellate court will pay large respect to his judgment. And if such judgment is approved by the proper appellate court, this court, when called upon to review the proceedings of both courts, will rightfully be much influenced by their concurrent opinions.

While it would needlessly prolong this opinion to quote all the testimony, it is proper that is salient features should be noticed. The single negligence charged is in the failure to have the engine step securely fastened. That step, a shovel-shaped piece of iron, is firmly fixed to a rod of iron about 1 inch in diameter and 18 inches in length, which passes up through the iron casting at the rear of the engine, about 6 or 8 inches thick. A shoulder to this rod fits underneath the casting, and the part

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passing through above has threads on the upper end upon which a nut is screwed firmly down on the casting, fastening the rod so that it will not move. That the step, rod, and nut were in themselves all that could be required is not disputed. That the nut was properly screwed on at El Paso, before the engine started on its trip, is shown; the plaintiff, who assisted there, testifying to the fact. The engineer testified that he used the step both on the trip to Toyah and the return trip to El Paso, and found it secure; and there is nothing to contradict this evidence. The engineer in his report of needed work both at Toyah and on his return at El Paso did not mention the step. He certainly supposed it secure. Competent inspectors were provided by the company both at El Paso and Toyah, and neither of them detected...

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646 practice notes
  • Mississippi Power & Light Co. v. Smith, 30745
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • March 12, 1934
    ...Negligence is an affirmative fact which must be established by a preponderance of the evidence. Patton v. Texas & P. R. R. Co., 179 U.S. 658; Gunning v. Cooley, 281 U.S. 90, 74 L.Ed. 720; Ewing v. Good, 78 F. 442, 444; 2 Labatt on Master and Servant, sec. 833; Railroad Co. v. Heath, 48 S.E.......
  • New Orleans & N.E. R. Co. v. Benson, 33160
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • October 10, 1938
    ...N. O. & N.E. v. Scarlet, 249 U.S. 528, 63 L.Ed. 572; Northwestern Co. v. Bobo, 290 U.S. 499, 78 L.Ed. 462; Patton v. T. & P. R. R. Co., 179 U.S. 658, 58 L.Ed. 361; C. M. & St. P. Co. v. Coogan, 271 U.S. 472, 70 L.Ed. 104; A. T. & S. F. R. Co. v. Toops, 281 U.S. 351, 74 L.Ed. 896; A. T. & S.......
  • Isgett v. Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Company, Civ. A. No. 70-315.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • August 31, 1971
    ...(1956), citing Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf R.R. v. McDade, 191 U.S. 64, 24 S.Ct. 24, 48 L.Ed. 96 (1903); Patton v. Texas and Pacific Ry., 179 U.S. 658, 21 S.Ct. 275, 45 L.Ed. 361 (1901); Union Pacific Ry. v. O'Brien, 161 U.S. 451, 16 S.Ct. 618, 40 L.Ed. 766 (1896), and Bailey v. Central Verm......
  • Kimberling v. Wabash Ry. Co., No. 32531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 30, 1935
    ...S.W. (2d) 47; Martin v. Ry. Co., 325 Mo. 1107, 30 S.W. (2d) 735; Riley v. Ry. Co., 328 Mo. 910, 44 S.W. (2d) 136; Patton v. Railroad Co., 179 U.S. 658, 45 L. Ed. 361, 21 Sup. Ct. 275; Chicago, M. & St. P. Ry. Co. v. Coogan, 271 U.S. 478, 46 Sup. Ct. 564, 70 L. Ed. 1041; Gulf, M. & N. Railro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
646 cases
  • Mississippi Power & Light Co. v. Smith, 30745
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • March 12, 1934
    ...Negligence is an affirmative fact which must be established by a preponderance of the evidence. Patton v. Texas & P. R. R. Co., 179 U.S. 658; Gunning v. Cooley, 281 U.S. 90, 74 L.Ed. 720; Ewing v. Good, 78 F. 442, 444; 2 Labatt on Master and Servant, sec. 833; Railroad Co. v. Heath, 48 S.E.......
  • New Orleans & N.E. R. Co. v. Benson, 33160
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • October 10, 1938
    ...N. O. & N.E. v. Scarlet, 249 U.S. 528, 63 L.Ed. 572; Northwestern Co. v. Bobo, 290 U.S. 499, 78 L.Ed. 462; Patton v. T. & P. R. R. Co., 179 U.S. 658, 58 L.Ed. 361; C. M. & St. P. Co. v. Coogan, 271 U.S. 472, 70 L.Ed. 104; A. T. & S. F. R. Co. v. Toops, 281 U.S. 351, 74 L.Ed. 896; A. T. & S.......
  • Isgett v. Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Company, Civ. A. No. 70-315.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • August 31, 1971
    ...(1956), citing Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf R.R. v. McDade, 191 U.S. 64, 24 S.Ct. 24, 48 L.Ed. 96 (1903); Patton v. Texas and Pacific Ry., 179 U.S. 658, 21 S.Ct. 275, 45 L.Ed. 361 (1901); Union Pacific Ry. v. O'Brien, 161 U.S. 451, 16 S.Ct. 618, 40 L.Ed. 766 (1896), and Bailey v. Central Verm......
  • Kimberling v. Wabash Ry. Co., No. 32531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 30, 1935
    ...S.W. (2d) 47; Martin v. Ry. Co., 325 Mo. 1107, 30 S.W. (2d) 735; Riley v. Ry. Co., 328 Mo. 910, 44 S.W. (2d) 136; Patton v. Railroad Co., 179 U.S. 658, 45 L. Ed. 361, 21 Sup. Ct. 275; Chicago, M. & St. P. Ry. Co. v. Coogan, 271 U.S. 478, 46 Sup. Ct. 564, 70 L. Ed. 1041; Gulf, M. & N. Railro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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