Pennsylvania Railroad Co. v. Chamberlain

288 U.S. 333 (1933)


Chamberlain (P) sued Pennsylvania Railroad Co. (D) to recover for the death of a brakeman who was killed while assisting in a railroad yard operations. The complaint alleged that a number of cars were negligently caused to be brought into violent contact with some cars the deceased was riding on causing him to be thrown off and run over. There was a string of 7 cars in front of the 2 cars P was riding on and another string of nine cars behind him. It is alleged that the nine card collided with the two and P was killed. However, three D employee eyewitnesses who were riding on the nine cars testified that there was no collision. Bainbridge, a witness for P, testified that a loud crash occurred before the accident and that also prior to the accident the nine cars behind were speeding up but that he looked away before they met and before he heard the crash. He also stated that he stood about 900 feet away from the body of deceased, was not paying particular attention, and loud crashes were not an unusual event. He then testified that when he looked back at the decedent, he was no longer in sight but that a collision had occurred because the two strings of cars were then moving together. The decedent’s body was eventually found about 900 feet from Bainbridge. There was no direct testimony that a collision had occurred. The trial court entered a directed verdict for D. All the evidence was circumstantial and was so insufficient and insubstantial that it did not justify submission to the jury. The appellate court reversed, and certiorari was granted.