Basham v. Pennsylvania Railroad Company

RESPONDENT: Pennsylvania Railroad Company
LOCATION: Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 372 US 699 (1963)
ARGUED: Mar 19, 1963
DECIDED: Apr 15, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Basham v. Pennsylvania Railroad Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 19, 1963 in Basham v. Pennsylvania Railroad Company

Earl Warren:

Number 512, James Basham versus Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Mr. Gammerman.

Ira Gammerman:

Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Court.

This is a Federal Employers' Liability Act case, which was tried initially in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Kings County before the court and jury.

The jury returns the verdict in favor of the petitioner in the amount of $15,000.On the respondent's motion the trial judge set that verdict aside and also granted respondent's motion to direct the verdict for the defendant, the Railroad.

An appeal was taken to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, the Appellate Division of the State of New York.

And that court affirmed the action of the trial judge by a vote of four to one.

A further appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals in Albany.

That court affirming the action of the trial court unanimously.

As I've mentioned this is a Federal Employers' Liability Act case.

The petitioner at the time of the accident was an employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the respondent.

The accident occurred in January of 1956.

The petitioner was working for the respondent as a car repairman helper in the respondent's Sunnyside Yard in New York City.

In those yards the respondent maintains wheel pits.

These are pits which are used by respondent's employees to remove old wheels from railroad cars and install new ones.

The pit itself is very similar to a grease pit underneath an automobile.

That is, if they cleared out the space between the running rails on which the railroad car sits so that the men can get down into the space from three or four feet and work beneath the car.

The wheels are replaced by moving the car over the pit and rolling underneath the car a movable hoist to a jack which is attached to a movable platform which rolls at the bottom of the pit.

The hoist is then raised to the level of the wheels.

The wheels are disconnected from the car, lowered to the bottom of the pit and rolled out.

The old wheels are replaced by new wheels which are again rolled underneath the car on this movable platform and raised by the hoist to the point at which they can be securely and firmly affixed to the railroad car.

It was the job of the petitioner to assist in this operation being performed that one of these three pits.

That his job at the time of the accident was to stand on this wooden movable platform and hold with both hands a rather heavy spring as the new wheels were being raised to be placed in position where they could be securely affixed to the car.

As he was doing this, the platform on which he was standing suddenly shifted or moved causing him to lose his balance.

Potter Stewart:

That's the question in the case (Voice Overlap) --

Ira Gammerman:

That's correct.

The --

Potter Stewart:


Ira Gammerman:

The petitioner put out his hand to regain his balance when the spring that he had formerly been holding jumped out and fell on his hand then he sustained the injuries.

I think it's important to the case and the issues to discuss just for a moment the apparatus that was being used.