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DELK v. ST. LOUIS AND SAN FRANCISCO RAILROAD COMPANY.

decided: May 15, 1911.

DELK
v.
ST. LOUIS AND SAN FRANCISCO RAILROAD COMPANY.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

Author: Harlan

[ 220 U.S. Page 581]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.

The St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad Company, a Missouri corporation engaged in commerce as a carrier of freight and passengers through Tennessee and other States, was sued in one of the courts of Tennessee by the plaintiff in error, Delk, for damages alleged to have been sustained by him while engaged in the discharge of his duties as an employe of the company. On the petition of the railroad company the case was removed to the Circuit Court of the United States on the ground of diversity of citizenship.

The declaration contained several counts, but the basis of the plaintiff's claim is the alleged failure of the railroad company to provide proper automatic couplers, as required by the act of Congress of March 2, 1893, known as the original Safety Appliance Act. 27 Stat. 531. The company filed a plea, putting in issue the material allegations of the declaration. It also proceeded on the ground that the injuries complained of were caused by the plaintiff's own fault in not observing proper care in doing the work in which he was engaged when injured.

Upon a trial of the case in the Federal court there was a verdict and judgment in favor of the plaintiff for $7,500. The company moved for a new trial, and the trial court

[ 220 U.S. Page 582]

     indicated its purpose to grant that motion unless the plaintiff by remittitur reduced the verdict and judgment to $5,000. The plaintiff complied with that condition, and judgment was entered against the company for the sum last mentioned. In the Circuit Court of Appeals the judgment was reversed and the case remanded for a new trial. St. Louis & S.F.R. Co. v. Delk, 158 Fed. Rep. 931, 939, 940. Thereafter this court allowed a writ of certiorari.

The title of the Safety Appliance statute declared it to be "An act to promote the safety of employes and travelers upon railroads by compelling common carriers engaged in interstate commerce to equip their cars with automatic couplers and continuous brakes and their locomotives with driving-wheel brakes, and for other purposes." 27 Stat. 531, c. 196.

The provisions of the act, so far as it is material to set them out, appear in the opinion of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway Co. v. United States, just decided, ante, p. 559. The Circuit Court of Appeals well said, in the present case, that while the general purpose of the statute was to promote the safety of employes and travelers, its immediate purpose was to provide a particular mode to effect that result, namely, the equipping of each car used in moving interstate traffic with couplers, coupling automatically by impact and which can be uncoupled without the necessity of men going between the ends of the cars.

The material facts out of which the suit arises and as to which there seems to be no dispute are these: The defendant company received lumber to be carried from Giles, Arkansas, to Memphis, Tennessee. In order that the consignee might receive the lumber, the car containing it was delivered, October 2, 1906, to the Union Railway Company, known as the Belt Line. But it was promptly returned the next day to the present defendant because of a defect in the coupling and uncoupling appliance on one end of it. The car in question was in a new

[ 220 U.S. Page 583]

     yard of the defendant company, and was in a "string" of nine cars on what is known as "the dead track" in that yard. This track was called a team track, because it was so arranged that teams might be loaded and unloaded from alongside it.

On the morning after the return of the car, October 4, 1906, Delk, acting under instructions of the agent of the defendant company, undertook to switch certain cars out of the string of nine cars, so as to get two empty cars and three coal cars for removal to some other part of the company's line. The remaining facts upon which the Circuit Court of Appeals proceeded cannot, that court said, be better stated than they are in the brief for the Interstate Commerce Commission, in whose behalf special counsel appeared in that court. Those facts are set out in the opinion of the court below as follows: "The cars were on the track extending in the general direction of east and west, the engine being on the western end of the nine cars. The nine cars were drawn off this team track on to the lead track. The easternmost two cars, being empties, were left on the team track. The remaining seven cars were then pushed back on the team track. The easternmost two cars of the seven cars, loaded with brick, were left on the team track. The remaining five cars were again drawn on to the lead track, the three cars loaded with coal were left thereon. The engine, with the remaining two cars, again went upon the team track, and defendant in error undertook to couple the eastern end of the two cars attached to the engine to the western end of the two cars just left on the team track, but ...


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