RESPONDENT: Durham & Southern Railway Company
LOCATION: Eagle Coffee Shoppe
DOCKET NO.: 183
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
CITATION: 365 US 160 (1961)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1961
DECIDED: Feb 20, 1961
Facts of the case
Media for Maynard v. Durham & Southern Railway Company
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1961 in Maynard v. Durham & Southern Railway Company
Number 183 Eugene E. Maynard, Petitioner, versus Durham & Southern Railway Company.
Charles F. Blanchard:
Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.
This action was brought in the North Carolina State Court by the railroad employee, Maynard against his employer, the Durham Southern Railway Company under the provisions of the Federal Employer's Liability Act, growing out of injuries which he received on August 22nd, 1955.
The case came on for trail in the Wake County Superior Court in April 1959, the Superior Court being North Carolina's (Inaudible) highest court.
Railroad's motion of a nonsuit was granted at the end of all of the evidence, without the juries having the opportunity of passing on any of the issues.
The Supreme Court on appeal, affirmed the Superior Court with one justice dissenting.
Thereafter this -- the United States Supreme Court granted the writ on 27 June, 1960.
The petitioner was seriously injured while assisting in loading of one of the railroad's motor trucks.
In bar a petitioner's rights, the railroad pleaded and offered evidence of a release signed by the petitioner.
Plaintiff or petitioner attacks the validity and did attack the validity below of the purported release on two grounds, one that it was unsupported by any consideration whatsoever and its execution was procured by fraud, misrepresentation and undue influence.
Now, to please Court, since the railroad conceded in open court in the North Carolina Supreme Court that -- probably the evidence offered by the petitioner, was sufficient to take the case to the jury on the issue of negligence, it would appear unnecessary for me to take the Court's time in reciting the minute details of how the plaintiff's serious injuries occurred during the loading of the truck.
With that background, let us consider the evidence most favorable to the petitioner in respect to the execution of the release, itself.
Following his injury, the petitioner was off his job for approximate two weeks and was required to see several doctors, before he was able to return to work around the middle of September 1955.
Thereafter, on Saturday, September 17, 1955, petitioner went to the office of the defendant railroad's general manager to get his pay check.
The petitioner produced evidence, that on this date the defendant railroad owed him a $144.60 for back wages.
There were two men in the office, the general manager these being the petitioner and the general manager and no others.
When the petitioner requested his pay check, the general manager took a piece of paper from the desk drawer and keeping it partially covered with his hand, pushed it across the desk for petitioner and told petitioner to sign.
He didn't take his hand off to the paper testified the petitioner, I remember very distinctly that Mr. McAllister kept his hand on it, he further testified.
He also testified that he was not even given a chance to read this paper.
Petitioner thought that he was signing for his pay check and so he testified and he testified he ordinarily received his pay check on the Saturday and this being -- this was also Saturday.
He would not have signed the paper had he known it was a release and that he had never been paid anything -- he had never been paid anything for his injuries we -- when he signed what he thought was a receipt.
Now, the petitioner urges that under this evidence, there were two jury questions, it's properly two jury questions, one, the question of fraud whether it was procured by fraud and second was there complete lack of consideration as alleged.
In doing so, making these contentions, the petitioner does not rely only on evidentiary or factual propositions.
We feel that the Supreme Court of North Carolina simply misinterpreted or ignored the vast federal questions and authorities on the subject of releases.
First, as to fraud, Dice versus Akron, Canton & Youngstown Railroad are considered at this Court in 342 U.S. 1952, seems to be and appears to be the leading case in the last time this Court has considered the question of releases and the -- and the fraud in the procurement of releases under the Federal Employers Liability Act.
There, the petitioner alleged that he was owed $900 by the railroad and he went to get his pay check and the railroad told him, he was merely signing a receipt, turned out to be a release from liability for personal injuries.
Charles E. Whittaker:
That's when he discovered this fraud, didn't t he?
Charles F. Blanchard:
Yes Your Honor, the Court did say that there -- that there was deliberate false statements made to deceive and which did deceive in that case.
Here, in the principal case, we have false and deceptive silence made to deceive and which did deceive.