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RICHMOND & DANVILLE R. CO. V. ELLIOTT, 149 U. S. 266 (1893)

U.S. Supreme Court

Richmond & Danville R. Co. v. Elliott, 149 U.S. 266 (1893)

Richmond and Danville Railroad Company v. Elliott

No. 199

Argued April 5-6, 1893

Decided May 1, 1893

149 U.S. 266


On the trial of an action by a coupler and switchman of a railroad company, whose wages were $1.50 per day, against another company to recover for injuries received while in the discharge of his duties from the explosion of the boiler of a locomotive, he was asked, as a witness, what were his prospects of advancement in the service of the company, and answered that he thought by staying he would be promoted; that he had been several times, in the absence of the yardmaster, called upon to discharge his duties; that there was a "system by which you go in there as coupler or train-hand, or in the yard, and if a man falls out, you stand a chance of taking his place," and that the average yard-conductor obtained a salary of from $60 to $75 a month. Held that there was error in admitting this testimony.

If a railway company, in purchasing a locomotive from a manufacturer of recognized standing, makes such reasonable examination of it as is possible without tearing the machinery in pieces, and subjects it fully to all the ordinary tests which are applied for determining the efficiency and strength of completed engines, and such examination and tests disclose no defect, it cannot, in an action by a stranger, be adjudged guilty of negligence on account of a latent defect which subsequently caused injury to such party.

On February 8, 1887, defendant in error commenced this action in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia, to recover damages for personal injuries. The case was removed to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of Georgia, in which court a trial was had on the second of November, 1888, and a verdict returned in favor of the plaintiff for $10,000. Judgment having been entered thereon, defendant sued out a writ of error from this Court.

The facts were these: the plaintiff was an employee of the Central Railroad and Banking Company, which company had, under an arrangement with the defendant, the right to use its

Page 149 U. S. 267

yard in Atlanta, Georgia, for switching purposes and in the making up of trains. He was one of the crew of a switch engine belonging to the Central Company, and on the night of November 25, 1886, while in the discharge of his duties in the yard, engine No. 515, belonging to the defendant, exploded its boiler, and a piece of the dome thereof struck him on the leg and injured him so that amputation became necessary. The explosion of this boiler was charged to be owing to negligence on the part of the defendant in this respect: "That more steam was allowed to generate than the engine had capacity to contain;" that the boiler was defective, and that the defendant had notice of the defect.

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