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GRAND TRUNK RY. CO. V. IVES, 144 U. S. 408 (1892)

U.S. Supreme Court

Grand Trunk Ry. Co. v. Ives, 144 U.S. 408 (1892)

Grand Trunk Railway Company v. Ives

No. 134

Argued January 4-5, 1892

Decided April 4, 1892

144 U.S. 408


When, in an action brought against a railroad company in Michigan by the administrator of a person killed by one of its trains to recover damages for the killing, the record in this Court fails to show that any exception was taken at the trial, based upon the lack of evidence to show that he left someone dependent upon him for support, or some one who had a reasonable expectation of receiving some benefit from him during his lifetime, as required by the laws of that state (Howell's Ann.Stat. §§ 3391, 3392), the objection is not before this Court for consideration.

The terms "ordinary care," "reasonable prudence," and similar terms have a relative significance depending upon the special circumstances and surroundings of the particular case.

When a given state of facts is such that reasonable men may fairly differ upon the question as to whether there was negligence or not, the determination of the matter is for the jury; but where the facts are such that all reasonable men must draw the same conclusion from them, the question of negligence is one of law, for the court.

The running of a railroad train within the limits of a city at a greater speed than is permitted by the city ordinances is a circumstance from which negligence may be inferred in case an injury is inflicted upon a person by the train.

Whether ordinary care or reasonable prudence requires a railroad company to keep a flagman stationed at a crossing that is especially dangerous is a question of fact for a jury, although in some cases it has been held to be a question of law for the court.

Where the statutes of a state make provisions in regard to flagmen at

Page 144 U. S. 409

crossings, this Court will follow the construction given to such statutes by its courts, and, so following the decisions of the courts of the State of Michigan, it is held that the duty to provide flagmen or gates, or other adequate warnings or appliances, may exist outside of the statute if the situation of the crossing reasonably requires it.

The giving of an erroneous instruction which was not prejudicial to the objecting party is not reversible error.

In an action against a railroad company to recover for injuries caused by the negligence of its servants the determination of the fact of whether the person injured was guilty of contributory negligence is a question of fact for the jury.

In such case, if the proximate and immediate cause of the injury can be traced to the want of ordinary care and caution in the person injured, an action for the injury cannot be maintained unless it further appear that the defendant might, by the exercise of reasonable care and prudence, have avoided the consequences of the injured party's negligence.

In determining whether the injured party in such case was guilty of contributory negligence, the jury is bound to consider all the facts and circumstances bearing upon the question, and not select one particular fact or circumstance as controlling the case to the exclusion of all others.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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