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DAVIS v. WOLFE.

decided: November 12, 1923.

DAVIS, DESIGNATED AGENT UNDER THE TRANSPORTATION ACT
v.
WOLFE.



CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI.

Author: Sanford

[ 263 U.S. Page 239]

 MR. JUSTICE SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

The respondent Wolfe brought this action in a Circuit Court of Missouri to recover damages for personal injuries suffered by him while employed as the conductor

[ 263 U.S. Page 240]

     of a freight train on a railroad under federal control, basing his right of recovery upon the Employers' Liability Act in connection, primarily, with an alleged violation of the provisions of the Safety Appliance Act of March 2, 1893, c. 196, 27 Stat. 531, as amended by the Act of March 2, 1903, c. 976, 32 Stat. 943. He had a verdict and judgment; and the judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the State. 264 Mo. 170.

The petitioner contends that there was no evidence to take the case to the jury under the Safety Appliance Act and that it was erroneously held to be applicable in the situation presented.

Section 4 of the original act, as amended by the Act of 1903, provides that, until otherwise ordered by the Interstate Commerce Commission, it shall be unlawful to use on any railroad engaged in interstate commerce any car "not provided with secure grab irons or handholds in the ends and sides . . . for greater security to men in coupling and uncoupling cars." Southern Railway v. United States, 222 U.S. 20, 24.

It was undisputed that the carrier was engaged in interstate commerce and that Wolfe was employed in such commerce. As found by the Supreme Court of Missouri his evidence tended to show the following facts: While the freight train of which he was conductor was at a station, moving slowly, he was standing on the side of one of the cars, with his feet in a sill-step fastened to the bottom of the car within about a foot of its end, and holding on with his right hand to a grab iron or handhold directly over the sill-step and about three or four feet from it. This grab iron consisted of a round iron bar bent at the ends, which were bolted into the wooden side of the car. The wood had rotted or been worn away, so that the bolts had a play or movement of about an inch, which made the grab iron loose and defective and permitted it to move to that extent. While thus standing on the sill-step

[ 263 U.S. Page 241]

     and holding on to the grab iron with his right hand, Wolfe signaled the fireman with his left hand to stop the train. But instead of stopping it moved forward with a violent jerk at accelerated speed, and by reason of the movement of the loose grab iron to which Wolfe was holding, he was caused to fall to the ground beside the car and one of its wheels ran over his left arm and injured it so that it had to be amputated at the shoulder joint. It was, furthermore, not unusual for conductors or brakemen to stand in the sill-step and hold on to the grab iron to signal orders as to the movement of the train.The loose condition of the grab iron was not disputed.

The argument in behalf of the petitioner is, in substance, that on these facts Wolfe was not in a situation where the defective grab iron operated as a breach of duty imposed for his benefit by § 4 of the act, which, it is urged, merely requires the furnishing and maintenance of grab irons in behalf of employees engaged in coupling or uncoupling cars or a service connected therewith, and does not require them as a means of, or aid to, the transportation of employees.

While there is no previous decision of this Court relating to this aspect of § 4, a controlling analogy is to be found in its decisions as to the application of § 2 of the act, which, as amended, makes it unlawful to use on a railroad engaged in interstate commerce any car not equipped with automatic couplers capable of being coupled and uncoupled "without the necessity of men going between the ends of the cars." This section has been considered in four cases in which the injured employees were not engaged either in coupling or uncoupling or in any service connected therewith.

In St. Louis Railroad v. Conarty, 238 U.S. 243, a switch engine ran, in the dark, into a standing car whose coupler and drawbar had ...


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