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U.S. Supreme Court

Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf R. Co. v. Tennessee, 191 U.S. 326 (1903)

Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad Company v. Tennessee

No. 67

Submitted November 10, 1903

Decided November 30, 1903

191 U.S. 326


Where it appears by an examination of the entire charge to the jury that the court understood the true rule as to defendant's liability and the jury were informed of the limitations thereon, no exceptions being taken except to a single detached remark, and no request being made to the court to restate the rule with his attention called to the defective portion of his charge, the judgment will not be reversed because, in certain detached and incidental remarks made in regard to defendant's liability, the court failed to state the proper limitation of liability, it also appearing that the remarks were used under such circumstances as made it absolutely certain that the jury was not misled thereby.

Page 191 U. S. 327

The defendant in error commenced this action against the railroad company, plaintiff in error, in the Pulaski Circuit Court in the State of Arkansas, to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by him by reason of the alleged negligence of the company. He alleged in his complaint that, on February 6, 1900, while engaged as head brakeman on a freight train of the defendant company, and while in the discharge of his duty as such, in the Town of Argenta, near Little Rock, Arkansas, he attempted to jump upon the pilot of the engine of the train of which he was head brakeman at a time when the engine was proceeding very slowly (about four miles an hour) in the freight yards. That, in attempting to jump upon the pilot, he stepped on an iron stirrup or step on the pilot or "cow-catcher" of the engine, and where, in the performance of his duty, he was accustomed to step, and by reason of its being in a weak and unstable condition, it gave way and precipitated him to the ground, where he became entangled in the ties of the railroad track, and the train ran over his left leg, and bruised and mangled the same so that he was compelled to have it amputated near the knee. He alleged that the defendant was negligent in the construction of the step, and was negligent in permitting it to stay in a faulty and infirm condition, and the condition of the step was unknown to the plaintiff; that he might have escaped uninjured but for the negligent construction of the track, the ties of which stood up above the ground, so that he was unable to get his foot out in time to prevent the engine from running over his leg and crushing it.

The defendant is a corporation organized and incorporated under an act of Congress, and on that ground removed the case into the United States District Court in Arkansas, and thereafter served its answer to the complaint. It denied all negligence, and alleged that the plaintiff was attempting to step upon the front end of the engine, which was unnecessary and which was careless and improper on his part, and that he was not required in the discharge of his duty, nor was it necessary for him to attempt to so ride, and in attempting to do

Page 191 U. S. 328

so, he was violating the rules of the company. It denied that the step on the pilot was in a weak and unstable condition or that it gave way and thereby precipitated the plaintiff to the ground, and denied that the condition of the step had anything to do with the precipitation of the plaintiff to the ground, which resulted in his injury, and it denied that the condition of the step was unknown to the plaintiff.

Upon these issues, the case came to trial and resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff, which, upon appeal to the circuit court of appeals, was affirmed, 116 F. 23, and the railroad company then sued out this writ of error.

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