DOCKET NO.: 367
DECIDED BY: Hughes Court (1938)
ARGUED: Jan 31, 1938
DECIDED: Apr 25, 1938
Facts of the case
Tompkins brought a lawsuit in federal court in New York against the Erie Railroad for personal injuries. Tompkins had been walking along the railroad tracks in Pennsylvania when he was hit by an open railcar door. Under Pennsylvania law, where the accident occurred, the railroad owed no duty to Tompkins. But this was the "law" according to the Pennsylvania courts. There was no statute of the state legislature declaring the law. In the federal courts, the railroad had a duty to take care. A federal court jury awarded Tompkins damages. The verdict was upheld on appeal.
Does the law of the several states applied by the federal courts as rules of decision in civil cases include all the decisional or common law of the states?