New York Central R. Co. v. Johnson - 279 U.S. 310 (1929)


U.S. Supreme Court

New York Central R. Co. v. Johnson, 279 U.S. 310 (1929)

New York Central R. Co. v. Johnson

Nos. 455 and 456

Argued March 8, 1929

Decided April 8, 1929

279 U.S. 310

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

1. In an action against a railroad company to recover damages for personal injuries alleged to have resulted from negligence in the operation of its train, it is competent for the defendant to show, in

Page 279 U. S. 311

defense, that the plaintiff's physical condition was attributable to disease as an independent cause, and this defense may be established as well by cross-examination of plaintiff's witnesses as by direct testimony of witnesses for the defendant. P. 279 U. S. 316.

2. Where, in an action in damages against a railroad for personal injuries, counsel for the defendant attempted to develop, by cross-examination of plaintiff's witnesses, evidence which would support a defense that the physical condition of the plaintiff was due to syphilis as an independent cause, but formally abandoned this defense at the close of the case, the conduct of counsel for the plaintiff in repeating before the jury that syphilis was the defense in the case, and the use of vituperative language in denouncing the defendant for charging the plaintiff with indecency -- although plaintiff's own witness had testified that the disease was frequently transmitted to innocent parties -- was calculated improperly to influence the verdict by appealing to passion and prejudice, and is ground for reversal. P. 279 U. S. 317.

3. Defense counsel's want of good judgment or good taste, or even misconduct, in following a line of inquiry on cross-examination which might be availed of to establish a valid defense, but one which was formally abandoned at the close of the case, was not an issue for the jury, and could not excuse misconduct on the part of opposing counsel. P. 279 U. S. 317.



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