SCHOFIELD V. CHICAGO, M. & ST.P. RAILWAY CO., 114 U. S. 615 (1885)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Schofield v. Chicago, M. & St.P. Railway Co., 114 U.S. 615 (1885)

Schofield v. Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company

Argued April 17, 21, 1885

Decided May 4, 1885

114 U.S. 615


The doctrine laid down in Railroad Co. v. Houston, 95 U. S. 697, cited and applied to the facts of this case.

Where a person, in a sleigh drawn by one horse on a wagon road approaching a crossing of a railroad track with which he was familiar could have seen a coming train during its progress through a distance of 70 rods from the crossing if he had looked from a point at any distance within 800 feet from the crossing, and was struck by the train at the crossing and injured, he was guilty of contributory negligence even though the train was not a regular one and was running at a high rate of speed and did not stop at a depot 70 rods from the crossing in the direction from which the train came and did not blow a whistle or ring a bell between the depot and the crossing.

On these facts it was proper for the trial court to direct a verdict for the defendant.

This is an action brought by William R. Schofield against the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company in a state court of Minnesota and removed by the defendant into the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota.

Page 114 U. S. 616

It was tried before a jury and, after the plaintiff had rested his case, the jury, under the instruction of the court, rendered a verdict for the defendant. The suit was one to recover damages for personal injuries to the plaintiff caused by his being struck by a train running on the railroad of the defendant while the plaintiff, in a sleigh drawn by one horse, was endeavoring to cross the track on the 13th of February, 1881, at Newport, in Minnesota. The train was running north on the east bank of the Mississippi River through Newport to St. Paul, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon in daylight, on Sunday. The track was straight from the crossing to a point 2,320 feet south of it, and the country was flat and open. The plaintiff was himself driving with a companion in the sleigh in a northerly direction on a wagon road which ran in the same general course with the railroad and to the west of it, and attempted to cross it from the west to the east as the train approached from the south. The crossing was 70 rods to the north of the depot at Newport. Opposite the depot, the wagon road was 280 feet distant to the west of the depot. The plaintiff had a slow horse, and was following the beaten track in the snow. When he arrived at a point in the wagon road 600 feet from the crossing, he could there, and all the way from there till he reached the crossing, have an unobstructed view of the railroad track to the south and of any train on it from the crossing back to the depot, and when he reached a point in the wagon road 33 feet from the crossing, he could have an unobstructed view to a considerable greater distance southward beyond the depot. The evidence shows that if the train had passed the depot when the plaintiff was at a point 600 feet or any less number of feet from the crossing, he could not have failed to see the train if he had looked for it, and that if the train had not reached the depot when the plaintiff arrived at a point 33 feet from the crossing, he could not at that point or at any point in the 33 feet have failed to see the train beyond and to the south of the depot if he had looked for it. When the train passed the depot, the plaintiff was at least 100 feet from the crossing. The train consisted of a locomotive engine and seven or eight cars. The engine whistled at a point

Page 114 U. S. 617

4,300 feet south of the depot, which was the whistling place for that depot. The wind was blowing strongly from north to south. The man in company with the plaintiff was killed by the accident, as was the horse. The plaintiff resided in the neighborhood, and was familiar with the crossing. After the accident, the men, horse, and sleigh were found on the west side of the railroad, showing that they had been struck as they were entering on the crossing. The train was not a regular one, and no train was due at the time of the accident; it was moving at a high rate of speed, it did not stop at the depot, and it gave no signal by blowing a whistle, or ringing a bell after it passed the depot.

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