Ward v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company

RESPONDENT: Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company
LOCATION: Superior Court of Bibb County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 362 US 396 (1960)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1960
DECIDED: Apr 18, 1960

Neal P. Rutledge - for the petitioner
Sam T. Dell, Jr. - for the respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Ward v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1960 in Ward v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company

Earl Warren:

Number 485, Raymond P. Ward versus Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

Mr. Rutledge.

Neal P. Rutledge:

May it please the Court.

This is a case which is here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which in turn -- which court in turn, affirmed a judgment for the respondent railroad in a case arising under the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

The basic question here presented involves the question of whether or not the petitioner, who is the plaintiff below, was injured during the course of his employment by the railroad.

Now, there is no question involved in the case, but what the petitioner was a regular railroad employee, that that was his occupation.

But the cases of, we submit, they're more than particular significance to the parties involved because it involves a situation which is applicable to the entire railroad industry.

And to wit, it involves the question of whether or not, a worker, a regular railroad worker, who is engaged in repairing a sidetrack that is used by a railroad in interstate commerce, but is not owned by the railroad, and which is used by the railroad to service more than one customer, and which sidetrack the railroad has obligated a third party to maintain, not according to any abstract or any concrete standards, but simply to the satisfaction of the railroad in which third party then, in turn, uses regular railroad employees to perform the work on that track, whether or not, where that situation is present, an employee who is injured, under those conditions, is injured in the course of his employment for the railroad.

Now, the facts that were presented in this case are very simple and are essentially undisputed except in one area in which there was a very marked and irreconcilable conflict.

The facts are briefly that the plaintiff, in this case, was one of a member of a seven-man section crew of the defendant railroad.

And that section crew was composed of a foreman, of an assistant foreman and four laborers.

The petitioner was the assistant foreman and the crew had a section of the railroad's track in which it had responsibility for -- for maintenance located primarily in Levy County, Florida.

And the duties of the crew included and they were spelled out in their -- in the railroad's rulebook and they -- which was introduced into evidence, which was quoted, “It provided that this crew should -- the wording was somewhat ambiguous but it provided that the crew should inspect.

The foreman should inspect and was responsible for the proper safety of all tracks, trestles, etcetera (including those privately owned) and so forth.

Now, the railroad contended that that rule meant that they simply had a duty to inspect the track.

They can have the duty to maintain it.

But in any event, the evidence was -- was without dispute that the railroad, in this situation, applicable to a particular sidetrack which the railroad had constructed tying into its mainline road and the track was approximately 1500 feet long.

And this track had been built by the railroad and the railroad had charged the M.& M.Turpentine Company, a local customer, for approximately 1350 feet of the track and the railroad, itself, owned and for the expense of constructing 150 feet of the track.

Earl Warren:

Another plant say -- to another plant (Voice Overlap) --

Neal P. Rutledge:

To -- no.

The -- the -- as I understand the situation, Your Honor, there was mainline track.

Earl Warren:


Neal P. Rutledge:

The mainline and then the sidetrack came off it and 150 feet of that sidetrack was owned by the railroad and was maintained by the railroad.

There's no question about it was a railroad track.

Earl Warren:


Neal P. Rutledge:

It was the end tying into railroad.

Earl Warren:

I just wondered the fact, what to another track.

Neal P. Rutledge:

Your Honor, if it drew, it --

Earl Warren:


Neal P. Rutledge:

-- it went into the M. & M. Turpentine track and the evidence was also undisputed that the track was used to service other railroad customers in the area, particularly farmers.