Jesionowski v. Boston & Maine Railroad - 329 U.S. 452 (1947)


U.S. Supreme Court

Jesionowski v. Boston & Maine Railroad, 329 U.S. 452 (1947)

Jesionowski v. Boston & Maine Railroad

No. 88

Argued December 16, 1946

Decided January 13, 1947

329 U.S. 452

Syllabus

In an action against a railroad in a federal district court under the Federal Employers' Liability Act to recover damages for the death of a brakeman resulting from the derailment of certain cars, the evidence showed that he threw a switch and signaled the engineer to back the cars, which were being switched from a main line to a siding. There was evidence tending to show that he negligently threw the switch while the lead car straddled it, which might have caused the derailment. Other evidence tended to show that, when the derailment occurred, splinters and planks were thrown into the air near a frog (75 feet from the switch) which could have caused the derailment. Some testified they were found on the track close to the switch, and some that they were close to the frog. There was evidence that the frog and switch had been in good condition before and after the derailment, and that the cars had been operated and the tracks used previously without any similar mishap. The jury was instructed that, if it found that the accident did not result from negligence of the deceased, it could infer that it resulted from negligence of the railroad. It found for the plaintiff.

Held:

1. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur was applicable, and the judgment against the railroad is sustained. Pp. 329 U. S. 456-459.

2. In this case, the jury's right to draw inferences from evidence and the sufficiency of the evidence to support a verdict are federal questions. P. 329 U. S. 457.

3. The facts support the jury's findings both that the deceased's conduct did not cause the accident, and that the railroad's did. P. 329 U. S. 458.

4. Under Rule 75(d) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, a statement in the designation of record on appeal that "the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is not applicable to the facts of this case" was not sufficient to raise the point that, because the trial judge directed a verdict for the defendant on the first count of the complaint (which charged a defect in the car, track or roadbed), he was not

Page 329 U. S. 453

justified in submitting to the jury the question of such a defect under the second count charging negligence generally. Pp. 329 U. S. 458-459.

154 F.2d 703 reversed.

In an action in a federal district court under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 35 Stat. 65, 53 Stat. 1404, 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq., petitioner obtained a judgment for damages for the death of her husband in a railroad accident. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. 154 F.2d 703. This Court granted certiorari. 328 U.S. 830. Reversed, p. 329 U. S. 459.



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