ATLANTIC & PACIFIC R. CO. V. LAIRD, 164 U. S. 393 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Atlantic & Pacific R. Co. v. Laird, 164 U.S. 393 (1896)

Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company v. Laird

No. 64

Submitted October 27, 1896

Decided November 30, 1896

164 U.S. 393


The complaint in this case charged that the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Company and the plaintiff in error, corporations of the State of Massachusetts, were at the time of the injury complained of, jointly operating a railroad; that the defendant was traveling upon it with a first class ticket, and that, by reason of negligence of the defendants an accident took place which caused the injuries to the plaintiff for which recovery was sought. The answers denied joint negligence, or joint operation of the road, and admitted that the plaintiff in error was operating it at the time. A trial resulted in a verdict in favor of the Atchison Company arid against the plaintiff in error. On the trial, the complaint was amended by substituting "second class "for " first class" ticket, and that the charters were by acts of Congress, and to the complaint so amended the statute of limitations was pleaded. A judgment on the verdict was set aside and an amended complaint was filed in which the plaintiff in error was charged to have done the negligent acts complained of, and recovery was sought against it. A second trial resulted in a verdict against the company. Held:

(1) That the action was ex delicto; that the defendants might have been sued either separately or jointly; that recovery might have been had if proof warranted against a single party, and that the amendment,

Page 164 U. S. 394

dismissing one of two joint tortfeasors and alleging that the injury complained of was occasioned solely by the remaining defendant, did not introduce a new cause of action.

(2) That the amendment stating that the plaintiff was traveling upon a second class ticket instead of a first class ticket, and that the plaintiff in error was chartered by an act of Congress instead of by a statute of Massachusetts, as originally averred, did not state. a new cause of action.

The action below was originally brought in a state court in California against the plaintiff in error and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company to recover damages .for personal injuries sustained on November 3, 1890, by the derailment of a train of cars upon which the plaintiff was. a passenger. It was alleged in the complaint that each of defendants was a corporation of the State of Massachusetts; that they jointly owned and operated a described line of railroad; that plaintiff was a passenger on one of the trains coming westward on said line of railroad, holding and traveling upon a first class ticket entitling her to travel between named stations, and the liability of the defendants was claimed to arise by reason of alleged negligence both in the construction of the road and in the management of the train. Upon the several applications of the defendants, the cause was transferred to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of California. In that court, answers were filed denying that the defendants were jointly guilty of the negligence complained of or that they jointly operated the line of railroad described in the complaint, but admitting that the defendant, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company, was operating the road. The cause was tried for the first time in November, 1892, and resulted in a verdict for plaintiff against the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company and in favor of the Atchison Company. On the trial, the plaintiff was allowed to amend her complaint by alleging that the ticket upon which she was traveling was a "second class" ticket, instead of, as alleged in the original complaint, a "first class" ticket. To the cause of action stated in the complaint as thus amended the defendants pleaded a statute of limitations of two years. Judgment was entered on the verdict,

Page 164 U. S. 395

but this judgment was subsequently set aside, with leave to the plaintiff to amend her complaint. On February 7, 1893, the second amended complaint was filed, in which the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company was charged to have owned and operated the line of railroad in question and to have done the negligent acts averred in the original complaint. An attack upon this pleading was made in the trial court by motion to strike from the files, by demurrer, by motion for judgment upon the pleadings, and by special requests for directions to the jury upon the second trial of the case. The ground of all such attacks was that the pleading set up a new cause of action, against which the statute of limitations had run at the time of the filing of such pleading. The cause was tried for the second time in April, 1893, and a verdict was again rendered against the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company. A judgment upon such verdict was subsequently affirmed by the circuit court of appeals. 15 U.S.App. 248. By writ of error, such judgment of affirmance was brought to this Court for review.

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