Union Pacific Railway Co. v. James,
163 U.S. 485 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Union Pacific Railway Co. v. James, 163 U.S. 485 (1896)

Union Pacific Railway Company v. James

No. 270

Argued May 4, 1896

Decided May 25, 1896

163 U.S. 485


The plaintiff, an employee of the railway company, sued to recover for injuries caused to him by the unblocking of a frog, in consequence of which he was thrown down, and an engine passed over him before he

Page 163 U. S. 486

could recover himself. There was contradictory testimony as to the

condition of the frog before and after the accident. On the trial below,

the only issue presented was the condition of the frog at the time of

the accident, but the court in substance instructed the jury that if the

company had once properly blocked the frog, it incurred no liability to

its employs by reason of the subsequent displacement of the blocking

unless such displacement was made with its knowledge or had continued

for such length of time as to impute notice to it. The same point having been taken in this Court, held,

(1) That there being a conflict of testimony as to the condition of the frog, that question of fact was properly submitted to the jury.

(2) That while the position of law taken by the company in this Court cannot be disputed, it was not taken or considered on the trial, and is not open for consideration here.

(3) That although the case is not entirely clear, this Court is not prepared to hold, on the record, that there was such error as would justify it in disturbing the judgment.

On April 12, 1890, defendant in error filed his petition in the district court of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, to recover of plaintiff in error $20,000 for personal injuries. From the petition, it appears that he was a brakeman in the employ of the railway company; that the injury occurred at the Town of North Bend, in the State of Nebraska, and that it was caused by reason of his catching his foot in the narrow angle or frog made by the junction of the main and side tracks at that place, from which frog he was unable to extricate himself until an engine had passed over him. It was alleged that the blocking of such frog is the proper duty of every railway company, upon the performance of which every employee has a right to rely, and, further,

"that in fact said angle or frog was not then, and had not been, blocked or filled, but was in a very dangerous and hazardous condition by reason of not being blocked or filled, all of which the said defendant then and there knew, but of which said plaintiff had no knowledge whatever."

The defendant answered with a general denial, and by amendment that the plaintiff was entirely familiar with the condition of the tracks at North Bend, and by virtue of such knowledge waived the right to take advantage of any alleged defect in their condition. The case was removed, on application of the railway company, to the Circuit Court of the

Page 163 U. S. 487

United States for the Southern District of Iowa. Trial being had, it resulted in a verdict and judgment for the plaintiff, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the Eighth Circuit, 56 F. 1001, to reverse which judgment the railway company sued out this writ of error.

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