Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Watson - 190 U.S. 287 (1903)
U.S. Supreme Court
Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Watson, 190 U.S. 287 (1903)
Texas and Pacific Railway Company v. Watson
Argued and submitted March 20, 1903
Decided May 4, 1903
190 U.S. 287
In an action to recover value of cotton burned while stored on a platform near a railroad track, held, there was no error in admitting evidence:
1. That, about the time of the fire and the passing of the locomotive which it was charged occasioned the fire, other fires were observed near the track and the cotton. Grand Trunk R. Co. v. Richardson, 91 U. S. 454.
2. In view of the condition of the record, that certain witnesses did not know of and saw no opportunity for the cotton to have caught fire except from the locomotive in question.
3. In answer to a hypothetical question to a witness duly qualified as an expert, as to whether the number of fires indicated the condition of the locomotive and the spark arresters.
4. By reading the deposition of a witness who was in court, but who it appeared was afterwards called by the defendant and testified as to the evidence in the deposition, the error, if any, not being sufficiently grave to require a reversal of the case. Also held:
5. That, on the evidence as it appeared on the record, it was properly left to the jury to determine if the company used the best spark arrester and the plaintiff was free from contributory negligence, the jury being also instructed that the verdict must be for the company if it did use the best spark arrester at the time in good condition, and operated the locomotive with ordinary prudence.
6. That it was not necessary to charge the jury that, in placing the cotton on the platform, the plaintiff assumed risks which were to be anticipated from engines properly equipped and operated, as that was to be deduced from the charge as made.
7. That the plaintiff was not bound by stipulations in the lease of the platform from the railroad company to the lessee, it appearing that the plaintiff was not in privity with the lessee, and had no knowledge of such stipulations.
This action was originally commenced in a Texas state court by the appellee Watson to recover the value of sixty-four bales of cotton, less insurance thereon. The cotton was alleged to have been destroyed by fire on January 3, 1896, while stored upon what was known as the O'Neil cotton platform near the depot of the railway company at Clarksville, Red River County, Texas. The fire was averred to have been occasioned by the negligence of the railway company in the use of a defectively constructed locomotive and in the careless operation thereof while passing said platform. Subsequently the insurance company was joined as plaintiff, and recovery was asked of the full value of the cotton. Upon application of the defendant, based upon the fact that it was incorporated under the laws of the United States, the cause was removed to the United States Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Texas. In the latter court, an amended answer was filed. This pleading contained general and special demurrers, a general denial, and a special answer setting up various defenses. The general and special demurrers were subsequently overruled, and defendant excepted. A trial was had, and it was shown by the evidence that, at the point where the fire in question occurred, the track of the railway company ran east and west, and the train which it was asserted caused the fire in question was moving eastward, and a strong wind was blowing from the north. A verdict was rendered in favor of the plaintiff Watson and against the railroad and against the plaintiff insurance company in favor of the railroad. Judgment was entered on the verdict; the judgment was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 112 F. 402, and the cause was then brought to this Court by writ of error.