Arnold v. Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Company

PETITIONER: Arnold
RESPONDENT: Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Company
LOCATION: The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas

DOCKET NO.: 240
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 353 US 360 (1957)
ARGUED: Apr 24, 1957 / Apr 25, 1957
DECIDED: May 13, 1957

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Arnold v. Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1957 in Arnold v. Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 24, 1957 in Arnold v. Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Company

Earl Warren:

Number 240, H. T. Arnold, Petitioner, versus Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway Company.

Mr. Bean, you may proceed.

James O. Bean:

Mr. Chief Justice -- Justice Warren, if Your Honors please.

This is another action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act tried in a state tribunal where the petitioner obtained a favorable verdict and judgment.

Appeal to the appellate court, the Court of Civil Appeals in Amarillo in the Seventh District reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment for an injured employee of the respondent.

The decision was reversed on local practice and procedure pertaining to special issues whether or not the issue of unsafe place is an ultimate issue or whether it is overridden or destroyed by some other issues.

That basically is the argument here I believe, Your Honors.

Then to the action of the Amarillo Court in taking away the jury verdict was an invasion.

I think it becomes important to know the facts here in order to determine whether or not the issue of unsafe-place was raised.

First, the railroad, the respondent, the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway Company had constructed a passageway or a driveway adjacent to its station for the use of a mail truck operated by a contractor, Billings, who had a contract with the Government to pick up and deliver mail.

The petitioner, Arnold, was a car inspector for the respondent.

It was his duty to inspect cars not -- not in any particular time but that was his job and the facts will show that he had the right to select the time that he made the inspection.

On the occasion of his injury, January the 16th, 1952, while working in the yards at Lubbock, Texas and while inspecting three cars which the railroad respondent had placed on his spur track for that purpose, or person for that purpose, he was ran over by this mail truck which was backing out blind.

Petitioner takes the position that the railroad created this unsafe place on his premises because it not only constructed and built the one way drive but directed its employee to work on the cars there.

Admittedly, the drive where the injury was sustained was too narrow for the use of a truck and the employee at the same time.

One must give way to the other.

As one of the witnesses testified, it is a very tight spot.

Now, the jury found in support of petitioner's contention that the railroad was negligent in failing to furnish a reasonably safe place.

That was the approximate cause, not the sole cause but a proximate cause.

The jury also found on other issues that the petitioner, Mr. Arnold, was guilty of contributory negligence and that he had already seen the truck -- the mail truck parked down that driveway and he turned his back to it and walked away after performing his car inspection, and that he was guilty of negligence in failing to keep a proper lookout for himself which approximately caused his injury.

Now, may I specifically point out here, Your Honors, that the jury found that to be only a proximate cause.

The Amarillo Court says it was the sole proximate cause.

The Amarillo Court also went further to say that the man's injuries were sustained solely by reason of the presence of the Billings truck.

Billings' truck under the facts and -- and the fact -- the pertinent facts here are contained in the testimony of three witnesses, the petitioner Arnold, Mr. Humphrey (ph), the station agent and Mr. Billings, the third party contractor.

The --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, is this -- is this --

James O. Bean:

-- railroad --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Is this photographed at 288A of the record?

Does this show the condition just before the injury?

James O. Bean:

The photographs and evidence are at 288, that --