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Shields v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 350 U.S. 318 (1956)

Shields v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co.

No. 150

Argued January 19, 1956

Decided February 27, 1956

350 U.S. 318


Petitioner, an independent contractor in the business of unloading gasoline, was instructed by the consignee to unload a tank car of gasoline which had been hauled by respondent railroad and which was located on a siding in its freight yards. While petitioner was standing on a board attached to the car near the dome, in order to unload the car by opening a valve inside the dome, the board broke and petitioner fell, sustaining injuries. The board, which was defective, was permanently fastened to the car near the dome, and had been placed there for the purpose for which petitioner was using it.

Held: the board as a safety appliance within the meaning of §§ 2 and 3 of the Safety Appliance Act of 1910, and the railroad was absolutely liable for damages resulting from petitioner's injuries. Pp. 350 U. S. 319-325.

(a) The board here involved came within the meaning of the term "running boards" as used in § 2 of the Act, which provides that "all cars requiring . . . secure running boards shall be equipped with such . . . running boards." P. 350 U. S. 321.

(b) The fact that the Interstate Commerce Commission, in its 1911 regulations under § 3, has not specified uniform standards for such running boards is not a binding administrative determination that they are not "running boards" for the purposes of § 2. Pp. 350 U. S. 321-322.

(c) Failure of the Commission to specify uniform standards for such running boards under § 3 need not mean that the tank car was not a car "requiring" such a running board within the meaning of § 2. Pp. 350 U. S. 322-323.

(d) If such a running board is provided by a railroad or the makers of the car and used by the railroad as an appliance necessary for the use of the car, it must be a safe board as required by § 2. Pp. 350 U. S. 323-324.

(e) Section 2 is not limited to such running boards as are required only in the movement of the train. Pp. 350 U. S. 324-325.

(f) There is no merit in the railroad's contention that, since petitioner is not one of its employees, no duty is owed him under § 2 of the Act. P. 350 U. S. 325.

220 F.2d 242 reversed.

Page 350 U. S. 319

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