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LOUISVILLE & NASHVILLE RAILROAD COMPANY ET AL. v. LAYTON

April 30, 1917

LOUISVILLE & NASHVILLE RAILROAD COMPANY ET AL
v.
LAYTON



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Clarke

[ 243 U.S. Page 618]

 MR. JUSTICE CLARKE delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiff below was a switchman in the employ of the defendants when he suffered the injury for which he recovered the judgment which was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Georgia, and which is here for review on writ of error.

The facts essential to an understanding of the question presented for decision are as follows:

A train of many cars standing on a switch was separated by about two car lengths from five cars on the same track loaded with coal. An engine, pushing a stock car ahead of it, came into the switch, and failed in an attempt to couple to the five cars but struck them with such force that, although the engine with the car attached stopped within half a car length, the five loaded cars were driven over the two intervening car lengths and struck so violently against the standing train that the plaintiff, who was on one of the five cars for the purpose of releasing the brakes, was thrown to the track, with the result that his right arm was crushed by the wheels and was amputated below the elbow.

The recovery in the case was on the first count of the petition, which alleges that the defendants were carriers of interstate commerce and that they were negligent, among other things, in permitting the use of the car attached to the engine and of the car to which the attempt was made to couple it, without such cars being equipped

[ 243 U.S. Page 619]

     with automatic couplers, which would couple by impact, as required by law, the claim being that if the cars had coupled when they came together the five cars of coal would not have run down against the others, causing the shock which threw the plaintiff under the wheels.

The purpose of this allegation with respect to automatic couplers was to make applicable to the case the Georgia Employers, Liability Act, which provides that an injured employee shall not be held guilty of either contributory negligence or of having assumed the risk when the violation of any statute enacted for his safety contributed to his injury.

The defendants admit that they were interstate carriers of his duty when he was thrown from the car, as he claims, or fell, as the defendants claim, but they deny all allegations of negligence.

On this state of pleading and of fact the court charged the jury that before the plaintiff could recover on his allegation that the cars were not properly equipped with automatic couplers "he must have shown to your satisfaction by a preponderance of the evidence" either that the cars had never been equipped with proper couplers or that, if they had been so equipped, they were in such condition that they would not couple automatically by impact and that such failure to so equip them contributed to cause the injury.

Upon this charge of the court the verdict was against the defendant and on it is based the only claim of error of ...


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