SPOKANE & INLAND EMPIRE R. CO. V. CAMPBELL

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustia & Oyez
Citation241 U. S. 497
Decision Date12 June 1916

Spokane & Inland Empire Railroad Company v. Campbell

No. 325

Argued April 26, 1916

Decided June 12, 1916

241 U.S. 497


ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

In an action under the Employers' Liability Act brought by an engineer of an interstate electric road for injuries resulting from a collision, the jury found a general verdict for plaintiff, and, in accordance with the practice of the state, made special findings that the violation by plaintiff of orders received before starting was the proximate cause of the collision, and that, immediately before the collision, the brakes on the train were insufficient to enable him to control the speed of the train. Held that:

On the record, the jury must have found that the defective air brakes were a proximate cause of the collision.

Under the Safety Appliance Act, if the equipment was defective or out of repair, the question of whether it was attributable to the company's negligence or not is immaterial.

An electric interstate road is not exempted from the requirements of the Safety Appliance Act because its terminals run over street railways. Spokane &c. v. United States, ante, P. 344.

The fact that an employee may have violated an order does not take him from the protection of the Safety Appliance Act if, as an actual fact, the brakes were defective and such defectiveness was a proximate cause of the injury.

Proof that an employee violated an order is not proof that he did so willfully, and where willfulness is not found, such violation is only negligence, and not a departure from the course of employment.

The right of an employee of an interstate carrier by rail to recover for an injury depends upon the Acts of Congress, to which all state legislation affecting the subject matter yields.

Where the contributory negligence of the injured employee and the defendant's violation of the Safety Appliance Act are concurrent proximate causes, the Employers' Liability Act requires the former to be disregarded.

Quaere whether, under the conformity act (Rev.Stats. 914), the federal trial court is required to adhere to the state practice governing the effect of a general verdict and special findings.

17 F. 518 affirmed.

Page 241 U. S. 498

The facts, which involve the construction and application of the Employers' Liability Act and the Safety Appliance Act and the validity of a judgment for damages for personal injuries against a company operating an interstate electric railway, are stated in the opinion.

MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

This action was brought by Campbell in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington to recover damages for personal injuries, and was based upon the Federal Employers' Liability Act of April 22, 1908 (c. 149, 35 Stat. 65), and the Safety Appliance Act of March 2, 1893, as amended March 2, 1903 (c. 196, 27 Stat. 531; c. 976, 32 Stat. 943). A judgment in plaintiff's favor was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals (217 F. 518), and the case comes here on writ of error.

At the time of Campbell's injury, July 31, 1909, the company was operating a single track electric railway between the City of Spokane, in the State of Washington, and the Town of Coeur d'Alene, in the State of Idaho. It was operated under standard railroad rules. The running time of regular trains was fixed by a timetable, upon which they were designated by numbers. Special trains were run by telegraphic orders given by a train dispatcher, whose office was in Spokane. Under the rules, regular trains were superior to special trains, and specials were required to look out for and keep out of the way of

Page 241 U. S. 499

the regulars. Unless a special train had orders from the train dispatcher fixing a meeting point with the regular train or in some other way giving it a right to disregard the time when the latter was due according to the timetable, it was required to be clear of the main line at any point five minutes before the regular train was due at that point according to the timetable. Campbell was an experienced motorman, had been in the company's employ for several years, and was conversant with its rules and its methods of train operation. On the day he was injured, he was the motorman in charge of a special train running between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, made up of a combined motor and passenger car and two trailers, and referred to in the train orders as Motor 5, that being the number of the motor car. The train was equipped with Westinghouse air brakes. After several trips between the termini, it was at Coeur d'Alene about 4:30 o'clock in the afternoon, ready to start for Spokane when ordered to do so. Regular train No. 20 was about due to arrive. Under orders presently to be mentioned, the nature of which was in dispute, Campbell started his train west from Coeur d'Alene, and had proceeded some distance when he discovered a train approaching on the same track from the opposite direction. Upon seeing this, he applied the brakes, without success, and there was a collision, in which he received serious personal injuries. The train with which he collided was regular No. 20.

His complaint in the action counted upon two grounds of recovery: (a) that the company, through its agents and employees, negligently instructed him to proceed with his train from Coeur d'Alene to Spokane, and to meet and pass No. 20 at the Town of Alan, a station west of the point of collision, and (b) that the collision was directly due to the failure of the company to furnish him with a motor and train supplied with proper air brakes

Page 241 U. S. 500

in working condition. The action was tried before the district court and a jury, when evidence was introduced to the following effect:

Campbell testified that, having arrived in Coeur d'Alene with his train about 4:20 p.m., and brought it into position to return to Spokane, he received through the conductor, Whittlesey, orders both written and oral for the running of the train; that the written order said that "motor 5 would run special Coeur d'Alene to Spokane and would meet Number 20 at Alan;" that, when the written order was received, Campbell was in his cab, ready to start, and that the conductor, on delivering the order to him, said: "All right, go ahead; get out of town." Campbell was unable to produce the written order. If its contents were as he testified, he was justified in at once leaving Coeur d'Alene and running to Alan, the order giving him a right of way over all trains to that point. But defendant's evidence was to the effect that the written order actually read: "Motor 5 will run spl. C. d'Alene to Spokane, meet spl. 4 east at Alan." Campbell admitted that, if this was in fact the order, it did not authorize him to leave Coeur d'Alene before No. 20 came in, for it made no mention of that train, and did not supersede the right given to it by rules and timetable. Nor was it contended in his behalf that the conductor's verbal order could in any way modify the written order. It appeared that there was a land registration in progress at Coeur d'Alene, and, because of the resulting rush of travel, incoming trains stopped at the west end of the yard and went on a Y switch, where the train was turned and then backed down to the Coeur d'Alene station, while trains ready to leave Coeur d'Alene, upon the arrival of an incoming train, would run to the end of the yard, between the legs of the Y, wait there for the incoming train, and pull out as soon as it headed in on the Y. Whittlesey testified that he intended the train to go to the Y and

Page 241 U. S. 501

wait there for No. 20. Because, as Campbell testified, his orders were to go to Alan to meet No. 20, he did not stop at the Y. He testified that, soon after passing this point, and while running at about 30 miles per hour (there was a slight descending grade), he saw an east-bound train (it was proved to be No. 20) coming on the same track at a distance which, from his testimony and that of others, might have been found to be upwards of 800 feet. He immediately shut off the power, and then "dynamited her" -- that is, threw his air brake into emergency so as to apply the air pressure upon the train brakes to the full capacity. He testified in effect that the brakes took hold properly, and held for approximately 35 or 40 feet, when the air released (another witness said it "leaked off"), and after that there was nothing he could do to stop the train except to reverse, which he endeavored to do, but without success. There was no hand brake. He testified that, if the air brakes had worked properly, he could have stopped his train and avoided a collision; that, when they took hold, they reduced the speed to about 20 miles per hour; that, when released, the train shot forward at approximately 18 or 20 miles an hour; "then I stopped it a little bit with my reverse, so that, at the moment of collision, I think we were going about 15 miles an hour." No. 20 meanwhile had been brought almost, if not quite, to a stop.

Under instructions from the trial court, the jury, besides returning a general verdict, which was in favor of the plaintiff, with ,500 damages, made three special findings in writing: (1) that Campbell, before leaving Coeur d'Alene, received a train order reading as follows: "Motor 5 will run Spl. C. d'Alene to Spokane, meet special 4 east at Alan;" (2) that the air brakes on...

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133 practice notes
  • Kimberling v. Wabash Ry. Co., No. 32531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 30, 1935
    ...Co. v. Schneider, 187 Fed. 492, 109 C.C.A. 344; Truesdale v. Wheelock, 74 S.W. (2d) 585; Spokane & Inland E. Railroad Co. v. Campbell, 241 U.S. 497, 36 Sup. Ct. 683, 60 L. Ed. 1125; Southern Pac. Railroad Co. v. Ralston, 67 Fed. (2d) 958; Coble v. Railroad Co., 38 S.W. (2d) 1031; Brainerd v......
  • Mooney v. Terminal Railroad Assn. of St. Louis, No. 39202.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 5, 1945
    ...66; Grand Trunk Western R. Co. v. Lindsay, 233 U.S. 42; Chicago G.W.R. Co. v. Schendel, 267 U.S. 287; Spokane & E.I.R. Co. v. Campbell, 241 U.S. 497. (3) The evidence also made a submissible case of negligence on the part of the engineer in failing to sound a timely warning with the whistle......
  • Mooney v. Terminal Railroad Association, No. 38122.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • January 3, 1944
    ...42; Union Pacific R. Co. v. Hadley, Admr., 246 U.S. 330; Chicago G.W.R. Co. v. Schendel, 267 U.S. 287; Spokane & I.E.R. Co. v. Campbell, 241 U.S. 497. (5) The evidence was sufficient to establish the custom of keeping a lookout. The engineer testified it was always the custom to look ahead ......
  • Sears v. Texas & N. O. Ry. Co., (Nos. 445-3934.)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • November 26, 1924
    ...North Carolina Ry. Co. v. Zachary, 232 U. S. 248, 34 S. Ct. 305, 58 L. Ed. 591, Ann. Cas. 1914C, 159; Spokane, etc., Co. v. Campbell, 241 U. S. 497, 36 S. Ct. 683, 60 L. Ed. 1125; Southern, etc., Ry. Co. v. Gray, 241 U. S. 333, 36 S. Ct. 558, 60 L. Ed. 1030; Davis v. Green, 260 U. S. 349, 4......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
123 cases
  • Kimberling v. Wabash Ry. Co., No. 32531.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 30, 1935
    ...Co. v. Schneider, 187 Fed. 492, 109 C.C.A. 344; Truesdale v. Wheelock, 74 S.W. (2d) 585; Spokane & Inland E. Railroad Co. v. Campbell, 241 U.S. 497, 36 Sup. Ct. 683, 60 L. Ed. 1125; Southern Pac. Railroad Co. v. Ralston, 67 Fed. (2d) 958; Coble v. Railroad Co., 38 S.W. (2d) 1031; Brainerd v......
  • Mooney v. Terminal Railroad Assn. of St. Louis, No. 39202.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 5, 1945
    ...66; Grand Trunk Western R. Co. v. Lindsay, 233 U.S. 42; Chicago G.W.R. Co. v. Schendel, 267 U.S. 287; Spokane & E.I.R. Co. v. Campbell, 241 U.S. 497. (3) The evidence also made a submissible case of negligence on the part of the engineer in failing to sound a timely warning with the whistle......
  • Mooney v. Terminal Railroad Association, No. 38122.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • January 3, 1944
    ...42; Union Pacific R. Co. v. Hadley, Admr., 246 U.S. 330; Chicago G.W.R. Co. v. Schendel, 267 U.S. 287; Spokane & I.E.R. Co. v. Campbell, 241 U.S. 497. (5) The evidence was sufficient to establish the custom of keeping a lookout. The engineer testified it was always the custom to look ahead ......
  • Sears v. Texas & N. O. Ry. Co., (Nos. 445-3934.)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • November 26, 1924
    ...North Carolina Ry. Co. v. Zachary, 232 U. S. 248, 34 S. Ct. 305, 58 L. Ed. 591, Ann. Cas. 1914C, 159; Spokane, etc., Co. v. Campbell, 241 U. S. 497, 36 S. Ct. 683, 60 L. Ed. 1125; Southern, etc., Ry. Co. v. Gray, 241 U. S. 333, 36 S. Ct. 558, 60 L. Ed. 1030; Davis v. Green, 260 U. S. 349, 4......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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