Patton v. Texas & Pacific Ry. Co.
179 U.S. 658 (1901)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Patton v. Texas & Pacific Ry. Co., 179 U.S. 658 (1901)

Patton v. Texas and Pacific Railway Company

No. 123

Argued December 6-7, 1900

Decided January 7, 1901

179 U.S. 658

Syllabus

The plaintiff, an employ of the railway company, was injured while at work for it. With reference to his contention that the trial court erred in directing a verdict for the defendant, and in failing to leave the question of negligence to the jury, this Court, after stating the facts, said:

(1) That while in the case of a passenger, the fact of an accident carries with it a presumption of negligence on the part of the carrier, a presumption which, in the absence of some explanation or proof to the contrary is sufficient to sustain a verdict against him, a different rule obtains as to an employee. The fact of accident carries with it no presumption of negligence on the part of the employer, and it is an affirmative fact for the injured employ to establish that the employer has been guilty of negligence.

(2) That, in the latter case, it is not sufficient for the employee to show that the employer may have been guilty of negligence, but the evidence must point to the fact that he was, and where the testimony leaves the matter uncertain, and shows that any one of half a dozen things may have brought about the injury for some of which the employer is responsible, and for some of which he is not, it is not for the jury to guess between these half a dozen causes and find that the negligence of the employer was the real cause when there is no satisfactory foundation in the testimony for that conclusion.

(3) That while the employer is bound to provide a safe place and safe machinery in which and with which the employee is to work, and while this is a positive duty resting upon him, and one which he may not avoid by turning it over to some employee, it is also true that there is no guaranty by the employer that the place and machinery shall be absolutely safe. He is bound to take reasonable care and make reasonable effort, and the greater the risk which attends the work to be done and the machinery to be used, the more imperative is the obligation resting upon him.

The rule in respect to machinery, which is the same as that in respect to place, was accurately stated by Mr. Justice Lamar for this Court in Washington & Georgetown Railroad v. McDade,135 U. S. 554, 135 U. S. 570.

Plaintiff in error, plaintiff below, brought his action against the defendant to recover for injuries sustained while in its employ

Page 179 U. S. 659

as fireman. A judgment in his favor was reversed on April 10, 1894, by the circuit court of appeals. 61 F. 259. On a second trial in the circuit court, the judge directed a verdict for the defendant upon which judgment was rendered. This judgment was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals, 95 F. 244, and thereupon the case was brought here on error.

The facts were that plaintiff was a fireman on a passenger train of the defendant running from El Paso to Toyah and return. Some three or four hours after one of those trips had been made, and while the engine of which he was fireman was being moved in the railroad yards at El Paso, plaintiff attempted to step off the engine, and in doing so the step turned, and he fell so far under the engine that the wheels passed over his right foot, crushing it so that amputation became necessary. Plaintiff alleged that the step turned because the nut which held it was not securely fastened -- that the omission to have it so fastened was negligence on the part of the company, for which it was liable.

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