St Louis, Iron Mountain Southern Railway Company v. Mrs Cordie Whirter, No. 541

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWhite
PartiesST. LOUIS, IRON MOUNTAIN, & SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, Plff. in Err., v. MRS. CORDIE McWHIRTER, Administratrix of the Estate of Etwal McWhirter, Deceased
Docket NumberNo. 541
Decision Date10 June 1913

229 U.S. 265
33 S.Ct. 858
57 L.Ed. 1179
ST. LOUIS, IRON MOUNTAIN, & SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, Plff. in Err.,

v.

MRS. CORDIE McWHIRTER, Administratrix of the Estate of Etwal McWhirter, Deceased.

No. 541
Argued December 4, 1912.
Decided June 10, 1913.

Messrs. Robert T. Railey, M. L. Clardy, and E. T. Bullock for plaintiff in error.

Page 266

Messrs. William V. Eaton, James Denis Mocquot, and Aubrey Everett Boyd for defendant in error.

Mr. Chief Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:

The record in this case is confusedly arranged, and numerous matters are pressed in argument which we deem to be irrelevant. Not following the various steps by which the petition as originally filed and the answer were both frequently amended, the case as finally put at issue was as follows: The defendant in error as administratrix of the estate of her husband, Etwal McWhirter, sued the plaintiff in error, for the benefit of herself and her four infant children, to recover damages alleged to have been suffered by the death of McWhirter. It was alleged that the deceased was employed as a flagman by the defendant company, and that he was doing that work on an interstate commerce freight train when he was run over and killed by the train on which he was serving. The death was alleged in general terms to have resulted from the wrongful and negligent acts of the conductor and engineer in charge of the train, and by the negligent and wrongful acts of the train despatcher and higher officers of the defendant company. It was moreover alleged that the deceased 'had been permitted and required by the officers and agents of the defendant to be and remain on duty for a longer period than sixteen consecutive hours, next before the aforesaid accident, and in violation of chapter 2939, § 2, 34 Stat. at L. 1416, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1911, p. 1321, of the acts of Congress of the United States relating to interstate commerce, and being a part of an act entitled 'An Act to Promote the Safety of Employees and Travelers upon Railroads by Limiting the Hours of Service of Employees Thereon,' which became a law on the 4th day of March, 1907, and also an act entitled, 'An Act Relating to the Liability of Com-

Page 267

mon Carriers by Railroad to Their Employees in Certain Cases,' which became a law on the 22d day of April, 1908 [35 Stat. at L. 65, chap. 149, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1911, p. 1322], and that the aforesaid negligent and wrongful acts of the officers and agents of the said defendant, and the said violation of the laws of the United States relating to interstate commerce, were the proximate and sole causes of the death of her said husband, and she relies on the laws of the United States made and provided in such cases.'

The answer of the defendant company denied the charges of negligence of its officers and other employees, admitted the death of McWhirter at a date and hour which was specified, while employed as alleged in the petition, and stated facts which it was charged established that the death was an unavoidable accident for which the company was not responsible. It, besides, averred there was no right to recover because of an alleged written contract of assumption of risk, entered into by the deceased and the company at the time he entered its service, several years before the happening of the accident.

The case was tried to a jury. Curing the course of the trial both sides made various objections to evidence and exceptions were taken to testimony offered. All the evidence upon which the case was tried is in the record. Leaving aside trivial matters having no tendency to affect the result, the entire case, as to negligence, was this: The defendant operates a line of railroad through the states of Missouri and Illinois, and Illmo is a station on the main line in Missouri, and Bush a station on a branch line in Illinois, the branch diverging from the main line at a station in Illinois called Gorham. On the afternoon of February 22, 1910, at 3:30, a train of empty coal or freight cars was started from Illmo, destined for Bush, for the purpose of being loaded with coal and returning. The train reached Bush about 11:30 that night. It there either loaded some of the empties with coal, or exchanged some

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for loaded cars. Exactly how long a time the operations at Bush consumed is not precisely fixed, one witness saying an hour, and another an hour and a half, and the same divergence exists as to the hour of departure on the return journey, one witness saying 12:30 and the other 1 o'clock. Gorham, where the branch line connects with the main line, is about 20 miles from Bush. When the train reached that point on the return trip is not shown. Certain it is, however, that, judging by the average speed of the train, somewhere about 6:15 the train passed a station called Howertown, where there was a siding, and found itself at either 7:35 or 7:37 drawing into a station called Wolf Lake, which is 15 miles from Gorham and 35 miles from Bush. The proof as to what then took place is contained in the testimony of three witnesses. Guess, the engineer of the train, Roberson, the telegraph operator who was stationed at Wolf Lake, and Loper, the conductor of the train.

Omitting as a general rule questions and answers except where it may be thought important to reproduce them, we state in narrative form the entire testimony of the first two of these witnesses, and make such reference to the third (Loper) as has any bearing upon the happening of the accident.

The engineer testified, as a witness for the plaintiff, as follows:

I have been employed as an engineer three years by the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, & Southern Railway Company; for a longer period than that was a fireman. At Illmo, Missouri, I was called out on the afternoon of February 22, 1910, at 3:30 o'clock, as near as I can remember. The crew of the train was as follows: Loper, conductor, flagman, Mansker, brakeman, McWhirter, and fireman, Edmiston. The train was going to Bush in Illinois. Bush is on a branch line which runs from Gorham to Bush. I do not recollect what hour we arrived at

Page 269

Gorham, but we changed from the main to the branch line. The train going up to Bush consisted of nine empties, a freight train. We stayed about an hour at Bush. We set out the train of empties, and turned the engine. It took about an hour to make the transfer at Bush. We came back to Gorham, going south towards Illmo. McWhirter was killed, returning, at Wolf Lake, on the morning of February 23, at 7:35, as near as I can remember. It was in that neighborhood. He was killed performing his duty, going out to set a switch.

Question. Just detail the manner as it occurred, as you know it?

Answer. As I came into Wolf Lake, when I whistled for town, brakeman McWhirter asked me if I were going to head in at Wolf Lake. I told him yes, that we had to get in on account of the sixteen-hour law. He got up, went out at the front window on the left side of the engine along the footboard, and the next thing I seen was the operator at Wolf Lake very much excited in giving a stop signal. I stepped off of engine, asked him what was the matter. He said, 'My goodness, you have run over the brakeman.' I went looking for him, found him under the left tank wheel, cut in two.

Q. Did you know this brakeman was in front of the engine?

A. No, sir.

Q. Did you see him go out of the cab window?

A. I seen him go out of the cab window. That is all.

Q. What did you suppose he went out of the cab window for?

A. He is supposed to get out there to open the switch. I supposed that is what he went out there for.

Q. Was it his duty to throw the switch in front of the window or not?

A. No, sir, it wasn't his place to throw it in front of the window. He wasn't supposed to go out on that pilot.

Page 270

Q. What I mean is, was the switch that the brakeman was required to throw in front of the engine or behind of the engine?

A. It was in front of the engine. I have no record that would show the minute that the train arrived at Wolf Lake on the morning of the 23d. I testified before the coroner's jury. As near as I can remember I stated at the coroner's inquest that the train arrived at Wolf Lake at 7:35. That would make five minutes over the sixteenhour law.

Q. You stated before the coroner's inquest 'at 7:30 the sixteen-hour law was up. We were seven minutes over time.' Was that correct?

A. I suppose so. As near as I can remember it was five minutes. It was 7:35. If I said 7:37 that was correct. Then I knew it. It has been over a year ago now. Neither cylinder of my engine was bad, more than ordinarily. It wouldn't make any difference in this case. Neither was leaking steam. I was not working steam when he was killed. The engine was drifting. Understand, shut off, there would be no leak there. Neither cylinder had been leaking steam that morning. There had not been anything the matter with the engine on this return trip. Nothing at all.

Q. Who saw this man run over?

A. Mr. Roberson was the only man I can say. Mr. Fred Roberson. He was standing on the platform. The train was going out to Wolf Lake. Destination was Illmo.

The crew of my train did not go any further than Wolf Lake. There was another crew that came to relieve us there.

On cross-examination the witness testified:

McWhirter knew of our purpose to head in at Wolf Lake, for I told him that we were going to head in on account of the sixteen-hour law. Wolf Lake was the first

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switch or place which we could enter at the expiration of the sixteen-hour law. It was McWhirter's duty as brakeman to throw the switch.

Q. When was the first time that you knew of the unfortunate accident?

A. When Mr. Roberson told me what had happened.

Q. Whom do you mean by Mr. Roberson, who was he?

A. The telegraph operator at Wolf Lake.

On re-direct examination the witness said:

It is about in the...

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83 practice notes
  • Urie v. Thompson, No. 129
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 31, 1949
    ...L.Ed. 1444; Chesapeake & Ohio R. Co. v. Kuhn, 284 U.S. 44, 46—47, 52 S.Ct. 45, 46, 76 L.Ed. 157; St. Louis, I.M. & S.R. Co. v. McWhirter, 229 U.S. 265, 277, 33 S.Ct. 858, 862, 863, 57 L.Ed. 1179; Second Employers' Liability Cases (Mondou v. New York, N.H. & H.R. Co.), 223 U.S. 1, 54—55, 57—......
  • Brady v. Terminal Railroad Assn., No. 33525.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 24, 1937
    ...238 U.S. 243, 35 Sup. Ct. 785, 59 L. Ed. 1290; Lang v. Railroad Co., 255 U.S. 455, 41 Sup. Ct. 381, 65 L. Ed. 729; Railroad v. McWhirter, 229 U.S. 265, 57 L. Ed. 1179; Noftz v. Railroad Co., 13 Fed. (2d) 389; L. & N. Railroad Co. v. Cook, 150 Ky. 689. 150 S.W. 802; Brady v. Wab. Railroad Co......
  • Meridian Laundry Co., Inc. v. James, 33974
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 6, 1940
    ...by the record no recovery can be had. A. T. & S. F. R. R. Co. v. Swearengen, 60 L.Ed. 317; St. L. I. M. & S. R. R. Co. v. McWhorter, 57 L.Ed. 1179, 1187; Osborne v. C. & O. & T. P. R. R. Co., 158 Ky. 176, 164 S.W. 818; Bjornsen v. N. P. R. R. Co., 84 Wash. 220, 146 P. 575. If there was any ......
  • Kansas City Southern Railway Company v. Leslie, 244
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • April 6, 1914
    ...when that evidence is admissible as to a part of the case. 107 Ark. 494; 87 Ark. 243; Id. 331; 49 S.W. 859; 38 Cyc. 1348 and cases cited; 229 U.S. 265; 33 S. C. Rep. 703; Id. 191; Id. 426. 12. The verdict was excessive. The damages under the second employer's liability act is limited to the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
83 cases
  • Urie v. Thompson, No. 129
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 31, 1949
    ...L.Ed. 1444; Chesapeake & Ohio R. Co. v. Kuhn, 284 U.S. 44, 46—47, 52 S.Ct. 45, 46, 76 L.Ed. 157; St. Louis, I.M. & S.R. Co. v. McWhirter, 229 U.S. 265, 277, 33 S.Ct. 858, 862, 863, 57 L.Ed. 1179; Second Employers' Liability Cases (Mondou v. New York, N.H. & H.R. Co.), 223 U.S. 1, 54—55, 57—......
  • Brady v. Terminal Railroad Assn., No. 33525.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 24, 1937
    ...238 U.S. 243, 35 Sup. Ct. 785, 59 L. Ed. 1290; Lang v. Railroad Co., 255 U.S. 455, 41 Sup. Ct. 381, 65 L. Ed. 729; Railroad v. McWhirter, 229 U.S. 265, 57 L. Ed. 1179; Noftz v. Railroad Co., 13 Fed. (2d) 389; L. & N. Railroad Co. v. Cook, 150 Ky. 689. 150 S.W. 802; Brady v. Wab. Railroad Co......
  • Meridian Laundry Co., Inc. v. James, 33974
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • May 6, 1940
    ...by the record no recovery can be had. A. T. & S. F. R. R. Co. v. Swearengen, 60 L.Ed. 317; St. L. I. M. & S. R. R. Co. v. McWhorter, 57 L.Ed. 1179, 1187; Osborne v. C. & O. & T. P. R. R. Co., 158 Ky. 176, 164 S.W. 818; Bjornsen v. N. P. R. R. Co., 84 Wash. 220, 146 P. 575. If there was any ......
  • Kansas City Southern Railway Company v. Leslie, 244
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • April 6, 1914
    ...when that evidence is admissible as to a part of the case. 107 Ark. 494; 87 Ark. 243; Id. 331; 49 S.W. 859; 38 Cyc. 1348 and cases cited; 229 U.S. 265; 33 S. C. Rep. 703; Id. 191; Id. 426. 12. The verdict was excessive. The damages under the second employer's liability act is limited to the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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