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FLETCHER v. BALTIMORE AND POTOMAC RAILROAD COMPANY.

decided: November 1, 1897.

FLETCHER
v.
BALTIMORE AND POTOMAC RAILROAD COMPANY.



ERROR TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

Author: PECKHAM

[ 168 U.S. Page 136]

 MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM delivered the opinion of the court.

This action was brought by the plaintiff in error to recover damages from the defendant corporation, for personal injuries which he alleged he received by reason of the negligence of its agents and servants.

The evidence given upon the trial upon the part of the plaintiff tended to show that on or about the 16th day of May, 1890, the defendant was a railroad corporation doing

[ 168 U.S. Page 137]

     business in the District of Columbia, and that on the day above mentioned, at the city of Washington in that District, the plaintiff was in the employment of the defendant and had been working at its workshop; that he had finished his work for the day at about a quarter of six in the evening, and leaving the shop had started for his home. When he reached the intersection of South Capitol Street and Virginia Avenue he stopped for a moment, and while standing on the pavement on the south side of the railway track, which was in the middle of Virginia Avenue, a repair train of the defendant corporation passed by him on its return from work for the day. Some of the testimony showed that the train was passing at the rate of twenty miles an hour, while other testimony showed a much less rate of speed. As the train passed the plaintiff one of the workmen on board threw from the car on which he was standing a stick of bridge timber about six inches square and about six feet long. It struck the ground and rebounded, striking the plaintiff and seriously and permanently injuring him. The defendant had been in the daily habit for several years of running out of Washington and Alexandria a repair train of open flat cars loaded with its employes, and the train returned every evening about six o'clock and brought the workmen back to their homes. These men were allowed the privilege of bringing back with them, for their own individual use for firewood, sticks of refuse timber left over from their work after repairing the road, such as old pieces of bridge timber, cross-ties, etc. It was the constant habit of the men during all these years to throw off these pieces of firewood while the train was in motion at such points on the road as were nearest their homes, where the wood was picked up and carried off by some of the members of their families or other person waiting there for it. The only caution given the men on the part of the servants or agents of the company was that they should be careful not to hurt any one in throwing the wood off. The foreman of the gang was the man who usually gave such instruction.

This evidence having been given, the plaintiff rested, and the defendant then moved for the direction of a verdict in its

[ 168 U.S. Page 138]

     favor, which motion was granted, and the judgment entered on the verdict having been affirmed by the Court of Appeals, 6 App. D.C. 385, is now before us for review.

In this ruling of the courts below we think there was error.

We are not called upon to say that the defendant was in fact guilty of negligence. The courts below have held as matter of law that the company was not liable, and hence a verdict in its favor was directed. On the contrary, we think the question whether the defendant was negligent was one which should have been submitted to the jury.

The plaintiff at the time of the accident had finished his employment for the day, and had left the workshop and grounds of the defendant, and was moving along a public highway in the city with the same rights as any other citizen would have. The liability of the defendant to the plaintiff for the act in question is not to be gauged by the law applicable to fellow-servants, where the negligence of one fellowservant by which another is injured imposes no liability upon the common employer. The facts existing at the time of the happening of this accident do not bring it within this rule. A railroad company is bound to use ordinary care and caution to avoid injuring persons or property which may be near its track. This is elementary. Shearman & Redfield on Negligence, (3d ed.) ยง 477 and cases cited in notes. The duty to use ordinary care and caution is imposed, as we think, upon the company to the extent of requiring from it the use of reasonable diligence in the conduct and management of its trains, so that persons or property on the public highway shall not be injured by a negligent or dangerous act performed by any one on the train, either a passenger or an employe acting outside and beyond the scope of his employment. The company does not insure against the performance of such an act, but it ...


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