Still v. Norfolk & Western Railway Company

RESPONDENT: Norfolk & Western Railway Company
LOCATION: Herricks School District

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 368 US 35 (1961)
ARGUED: Oct 19, 1961
DECIDED: Nov 13, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Still v. Norfolk & Western Railway Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 19, 1961 in Still v. Norfolk & Western Railway Company

Earl Warren:

Very well, Number 48, Carl Still, Petitioner, versus Norfolk and Western Railway Company.

Mr. Sachs.

Sidney S. Sachs:

May it please the Court.

This is a proceeding under the Federal Employers' Liability Act which culminated by the direction of a verdict by the trial judge on the ground that the employee who had sued for his personal injuries had misrepresented as principally his physical condition when he procured employment seven years before this accident happened.

There are two questions which are presented to the Court.

The first is one which has been before the Court many times and which we will not argue unless asked to do so.

It is the question as to whether the evidence was of such a nature as to justify the courts depriving this man of his right to jury trial under the Act.

The issue on which he ruled was fraud.

It is elementary of course that in order to establish that defense, the respondent had to show clearly that the employee had falsely misrepresented.

Material facts with intention to deceive the railroad that in fact the railroad had relied on his misrepresentations and that it had been reasonable in so relying.

This record is replete with inferences to be drawn from the evidence.

The petitioner denied that he had a fraudulent intention.

As to each of those elements and the sub-elements within each of them, there were questions for the jury under the principles which this Court had enumerate -- has enumerated.

In fact, as to two of those issues, we submit, that the only reasonable inferences were favorable to the petitioner and in fact therefore, as to this one issue, there should have been a directed verdict in his favor.

The novel question which this case presents is whether the defense of fraud in a case such as this, states a valid defense in any case, in any event.

This man briefly stating the facts which relate to that point was 24 years old when he was employed on July 24th, 1951.

He was employed at Bluefield, West Virginia.

The record shows that he filed a written application on that day, on the form provided by the respondent.

On that day and apparently on the morning of the next day, he was physically examined by the respondent's medical examiner.

He answered all the questions on the application.

He gave references.

He gave the name for example of a veteran's administration -- of a doctor in Bluefield, a town of 20,000, who examined for the veteran's administration.

The only investigation conducted by the respondent consisted of the medical examination which each -- which its examiner gave the petitioner.

That examiner said that it was a thorough examination.

He also said that at that time he was -- he had more than he could do.

He was crowded and had more than he could do.

There was in effect at the time of this application in 1951 a rule which is standard apparently among in the railroad industry and has been before this Court before, which -- which stated that, “Applications for employment will be accepted or rejected within 30 days.

If not notified within 30 days, applicant will be considered as accepted.”

As I have said, the respondent made no investigation whatsoever of this applicant.

It did not even ask him to produce his certificate of honorable discharge from the service.