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ERIE R CO v. SZARY , 253 U.S. 86 (1920)

United States Supreme Court

ERIE R. CO. v. SZARY(1920)

No. 355

Argued: January 08, 1920Decided: May 17, 1920

Messrs. Theodore Kiendl, Jr., of Brooklyn, and William C. Cannon, of New York City, for petitioner.

[253 U.S. 86, 88]   Mr. John C. Robinson, of New York City, for respondent.

Mr. Justice McKENNA delivered the opinion of the Court.

Action for damages under the Employers' Liability Act (Comp. St. 8657-8665), for the loss of a leg in the railroad company's service. The verdict and judgment were for $20,000. The contest in the case is whether the injury was received in interstate or intrastate service.

The judges below concurred in the judgment but disagreed upon the grounds of it. Judges Hand and Hough concurred on the authority of the Collins Case, 259 Fed. 172, 170 C. C. A. 240, though Judge Hand did not sit in it, and Judge Hough dissented from its judgment.

As we have just affirmed that case, if it is not distinguishable from the case at bar, the latter must also be affirmed. A distinction is not asserted, but both cases are attacked. In our opinion in the Collins Case we have reviewed most of the cases upon which the company relies in this, and whether their principle applies depends upon the facts. We collect them from the testimony and represent them as the jury had a right to consider them, omitting conflicts. [253 U.S. 86, 89]   Sand is necessary to an engine and must be used dry. Szary and two others were employed in its preparation, which was done in what is called the 'sand house,' a small structure standing in the yards of the company alongside of the tracks. The drying was done in four large stoves which it was the duty of Szary and his associates to attend. Soft coal was the heating means and the resulting ashes were dumped in an ash pit, to do which a track had to be crossed.

On the night of the accident, January 5, 1917, Szary began his duties at 6 o'clock, and sanded about seven engines whose destinations were other states. He sanded the last engine at 9 o'clock, and after doing so, he removed the ashes from the stove and carried them to the ash pit in a pail according to his custom, in doing which he was compelled to cross one of the tracks. He emptied the pail and left it on the ground while he went to the engine room to get a drink of water, and when returning for the pail and crossing the track he was hit by an engine. He had looked and saw no engine and heard no signal. He described the night as 'very dark and very foggy and rainy and misty,' and testified that he could not see anything, the steam and smoke from the engines in all parts of the yard being so thick that he could see nothing.

The engine that hit him was running backwards and without a light. He was picked up and carried to a hospital and his left leg was amputated the same night from two to three inches below the knee.

We think these facts bring the case within the Collins Case and the test there deduced from prior decisions. There were attempts there, and there are attempts here, to separate the duty and assign its character by intervals of time, and distinctions between the acts of service. Indeed something is attempted to be made of an omission, or an asserted omission, in the evidence, of the kind of commerce in which the last engine served was engaged. [253 U.S. 86, 90]   The distinctions are too artificial for acceptance. The acts of service were too intimately related and too necessary for the final purpose to be distinguished in legal character.

The conclusion that the service of Szary was rendered in interstate commerce determines the correctness of the ruling of the District Court upon the motion to dismiss made at the close of plaintiff's evidence, and afterwards for particular instructions and the objections to the charge by the court. All of the rulings were based on the character of the commerce, the court adjudging it to be interstate.

It hence follows that the judgment must be and it is


Mr. Justice VAN DEVANTER and Mr. Justice PITNEY dissent.

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ERIE R CO v. SZARY , 253 U.S. 86 (1920)

Citation: 253 U.S. 86

Docket No: No. 355

Argued: January 08, 1920

Decided: May 17, 1920

Court: United States Supreme Court

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