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Meagher v. Long Island R.R. Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Meagher (plaintiff) sued Long Island R.R. Co. (defendant) for negligence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If a party objects to a jury instruction soon after the jury begins to deliberate then that challenge is preserved.

    Facts.

    The plaintiff’s husband died after attempting to exit a train at a stop which was not on the schedule for the train to be stopped at. The plaintiff sued for negligence and the defendant argued contributory negligence under the relevant railroad laws that stated that the defendant could not be liable for an injury to an unauthorized passenger leaving the train. The defendant requested the judge to instruct the jury that if the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the train then they could not be held liable. However, the court instructed the jury that the plaintiff was only contributorily negligent if they left the train going faster than 2 miles per hour. The judge further stated that if the plaintiff had gotten on and attempted to get off the train, then the relevant railroad laws argued by the defendant did not apply. The defendants objected to the jury instruction as deliberations began. The judge then reread the jury instructions and the defendants did not object again.

    Issue.

    The plaintiff’s husband died after attempting to exit a train at a stop which was not on the schedule for the train to be stopped at. The plaintiff sued for negligence and the defendant argued contributory negligence under the relevant railroad laws that stated that the defendant could not be liable for an injury to an unauthorized passenger leaving the train. The defendant requested the judge to instruct the jury that if the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the train then they could not be held liable. However, the court instructed the jury that the plaintiff was only contributorily negligent if they left the train going faster than 2 miles per hour. The judge further stated that if the plaintiff had gotten on and attempted to get off the train, then the relevant railroad laws argued by the defendant did not apply. The defendants objected to the jury instruction as deliberations began. The judge then reread the jury instructions and the defendants did not object again.

    Held.

    Yes. If a party objects to a jury instruction soon after the jury begins to deliberate then that challenge is preserved.

    Dissent.

    the defendants failed to object at the beginning of deliberations and they have not met the standard set out.

    Discussion.

    Because the defendants objected once to the jury instructions they need not object again, and the defendants are granted a new trial because the instructions to the jury were erroneous. The plaintiff was contributorily negligent because the speed of the train is not relevant when a plaintiff leaves a train. The defendants objected to that part of the jury instruction and thus preserved their objection on appeal. The party was required to object at the beginning of deliberations which they did. While the defendant did wait until they could object in the chamber of the judge, this does not mean they have not met the standard.


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