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Titus v. Bradford, B. & K. R. Co

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff, an employee of Defendant, was killed after Defendant’s broad-gauge (standard) car began to wobble and tobble on a narrow-gauge truck. Plaintiff claims that Defendant is negligent in using narrow-gauge roads for standard car bodies. The jury awarded Plaintiff $5,325

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Even if a practice is shown to be dangerous, does not mean that it is negligent. Some employments are essentially hazardous. Absolute safety is unattainable and employers are not insurers.

    Facts. Defendant was in the business of transferring railroad cars from standard broad-gauge trucks to narrow-gauge trucks. The standard car bodies were hoisted onto narrow trucks. The car bodies had rounded bottoms and would not sit flat on the narrow trucks. To prevent the car bodies from wobbling and tobbling when Defendant’s narrow train was in motion, Defendant’s employees routinely secured them with blocks of wood, which were bolted or tied in place. Plaintiff had worked for defendant for the last two years and was familiar with the transfer and Defendant’s operation. While riding on top of a standard car secured on a narrow truck, said narrow truck began to wobble and tobble. Plaintiff was killed when he jumped off of the standard car and was struck by the car immediately behind him. Plaintiff claims that Defendant is negligent in using narrow-gauge roads for standard car bodies. The jury awarded Plaintiff $5,325. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Is Defendant, Plaintiff’s employer, held liable for Plaintiff’s injuries?

    Held. No. Judgment reversed.
    * The court fails to find any evidence of Defendant’s negligence. The negligence declared upon is the placing of a broad-gauge car upon a narrow-gauge truck. However, Defendant is in the business of placing broad-gauge cars upon narrow-gauge trucks and Plaintiff is an employee of Defendant who is quite familiar with the methods used in Defendant’s business.
    * Some employments are essentially hazardous. Absolute safety is unattainable and employers are not insurers.
    * No man is held by law to a higher degree of skill than the fair average of his profession or trade, and the standard of due care is the conduct of the average prudent man. The test of negligence in employers is the same.
    * Plaintiff had ample opportunity to know the risks of his employment.

    Discussion. The court is unwilling to impose a higher standard of care on Defendant merely because he is Plaintiff’s employer. In essence, Plaintiff claimed Defendant was liable because Defendant was engaged in its course of business. The fact that a course of business is dangerous will not give rise to liability. In assessing a claim of negligence the court is aware that some jobs are dangerous, and it is necessary to look at the customs of the industry, and variations within, in order to determine liability. Modernly, Plaintiff would have sued Defendant, his employer, for worker’s compensation.


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