Rio Grande Railway Company v. Leak/Opinion of the Court
|Rio Grande Railway Company v. Leak by
Opinion of the Court
1. At the trial the defendant asked the court to instruct the jury that: 'It was the duty of the plaintiff, before he crossed the line of defendant's railway, or approached it so closely that he might be injured by cars passing thereon, to look and listen up and down the track for approaching cars; and if he failed to so look and listen just prior to and up to the time of the accident, and if by so doing he could have discovered the approaching cars in time to have avoided the accident, his failure to so look and listen was negligence contributing to his injury, and your verdict must be for defendant, unless you believe defendant's servant in charge of said cars discovered plaintiff's danger in time to have avoided the accident by the use of ordinary care.'
The refusal to give this instruction was not error, for the reason that all the propositions in it were embraced in the charge to the jury, and it was not necessary to repeat them in special instructions asked by either party. The court had previously charged the jury as follows: 'That, though the defendant may have been guilty of negligence that contributed to the injury, yet if the plaintiff was also guilty of negligence that contributed to the injury he cannot recover, and in determining whether he acted with due care you may take into consideration the circumstances under which he was acting. You have a right to take into consideration he was traveling upon the traveled way usually traveled by persons hauling ore to this train. You have a right to take into consideration the observation that he made, so far as the evidence shows it,-whether he looked out, as he should have done, for the danger of coming cars or whether he listened. You should take into consideration all of the circumstances,-all that he did and all that he failed to do,-in order to determine whether he acted with due care or was guilty of negligence. The court further charges you that, if the plaintiff attempted to cross defendant's line of railway, or to approach so near it as injury might have resulted to him, where he should, by the exercise [ f] ordinary care, see that it was especially dangerous, it was plaintiff's duty to use an amount of care proportionate to the danger. Of course, when persons are acting under dangerous circumstances and conditions, it is their duty to act with respect to the danger that surrounds them, and to use a greater degree of care where there is much danger than where there is but little.'
The jury were also instructed that it was their duty to take into consideration all the evidence bearing upon the question of negligence, and, in the light of it all, determine whether the defendant was guilty of the negligence charged, or whether the plaintiff was guilty of negligence contributing to the injury.
Thus the jury were distinctly told that, taking into consideration all the circumstances, all that the plaintiff did or failed to do, including such observation as the plaintiff made, so far as the evidence showed it, they must determine whether 'he looked out, as he should have done, for the danger of coming trains, or whether he listened.' This is a distinct affirmation of the duty to look out for the coming of trains. When to this specific reference to the duty of looking and listening for approaching trains was added the general instruction that the plaintiff must have used such care as was proportionate to the danger of injury resulting from the crossing of a railroad track, otherwise he could not recover, no foundation is left upon which to rest the charge of error in refusing the particular instruction asked by the defendant.
2. It is assigned for error that the trial court refused to give the following instruction asked by the defendant: 'If, before crossing defendant's line of railway, or approaching the same so closely that he might be injured by cars passing thereon, the plaintiff did look and listen for approaching cars, and ascertained that such cars were approaching, or might have so ascertained if he had looked and listened with ordinary care, then it was negligence for the plaintiff to drive so close to such railway as to be injured by passing cars, although the plaintiff may have believed that he could succeed in crossing said line before the cars reached the place of collision; and your verdict must be for defendant unless you believe that defendant's servant in charge of said cars discovered plaintiff's danger in time to have avoided the accident by the use of ordinary care.'
The only distinct thought in favor of the defendant embodied in this instruction, not covered by the charge of the court, was that it was negligence in the plaintiff to drive so close to the railroad as to be injured by passing cars. But upon this point the charge of the court was full and abundantly explicit, for the jury were told that they must look at all the circumstances in determining whether the plaintiff acted with due care or was guilty of negligence; that, if he attempted to cross the railroad, or to approach so near to it that injury might have resulted, he was under a duty to use such care as was proportionate to the danger; and, generally, that all persons acting under dangerous circumstances and conditions must have due regard to the danger that surrounds them, and use a greater degree of care where there was much danger than where the danger was but little.
3. It is next assigned for error that the trial court refused the following instruction asked by the defendant: 'If the defendant licensed the plaintiff to go with his team in that portion of its yard where plaintiff was injured, yet defendant would not be liable to plaintiff for any injury resulting to him from any condition of the premises known to the plaintiff from the ordinary nature of the business carried on by it there.'
This instruction might well have been refused as inapplicable to any issue made by the pleadings. The plaintiff did not ground his action upon any defective condition of the defendant's premises, nor upon the manner in which its business on such premises was ordina ily carried on. His claim for damages was placed solely on the ground of the defendant's negligence in running its cars over its track. Nevertheless, the court, out of abundant caution, distinctly charged the jury that the defendant was not liable to the plaintiff for any defect in the manner of locating or in the construction of its tracks or switches; that the location or construction of the switches was not alleged as a cause of action; and that it was the duty of the jury, in order to determine whether the plaintiff or the defendant acted negligently or with due care, to take into consideration the location of the tracks, and the whole situation as shown by the evidence, in order to determine whether they did act prudently and with good care, or, on the contrary, whether they acted with negligence. These instructions meet any possible objection to the refusal of the trial court to give the above instruction asked by the defendant.
4. Another assignment of error relates to the refusal of the trial court to give the following instructions: 'If the plaintiff saw the cars coming, and knew that there was danger of a collision, or by the use of ordinary care could have so seen and known in time to escape therefrom by leaving his wagon, and if, notwithstanding such danger, he remained in his wagon for the purpose of attempting to save his wagon or horses, then you should not find a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in respect to any injury to his person unless you believe from the evidence that the brakeman in charge of said cars saw plaintiff's danger in time to have avoided the accident by the use of ordinary care.'
It was not an error to refuse this instruction. It was liable to the objection that it singled out particular circumstances and omitted all reference to others of importance. In Railway Co. v. Ives. 144 U.S. 408, 433, 12 Sup. Ct. 679, it was said that: 'In determining whether the deceased was guilty of contributory negligence, the jury were bound to consider all the facts and circumstances bearing upon that question, and not select one particularly prominent fact or circumstance as controlling the case, to the exclusion of all the others.' If the question of the ability of the plaintiff to have escaped personal injury 'by leaving his wagon' was involved in the issue as to contributory negligence, the jury were entitled to consider the evidence relating to that matter under the general direction to look at all the circumstances in determining whether the plaintiff was injured without fault or negligence on his part. The charge upon that subject was ample for all the purposes of a fair trial, and no injustice was done to the defendant by the refusal of the court to single out the fact that the plaintiff did not jump from or leave his wagon as the defendant's train approached, and take the chances of being personally injured in that way. Besides, the instruction asked by the defendant was so framed as to leave out of view any element of personal danger to the plaintiff by attempting to leave his wagon, provided, by getting out of it, or by jumping from it, he could have escaped injury by coming into collision with the defendant's cars. The jury might well have understood the instruction to mean that the possibility or probability of personal injury to the plaintiff by leaving his wagon was an immaterial circumstance if, by adopting that course, he could have escaped injury by actual collision with the cars of the defendant. The railway company could not escape responsibility for the negligence of its servants, resulting in personal injury to the plaintiff, by showing that the latter might not have been so seriously injured if he had left or jumped from his wagon. In the very nature of things it would have been impossible for the jury, under the circumstances of the accident, to have determined with any certainty whether the plaintiff could have left his wagon without risk of being injured.
Upon a careful examination of the record, we have no reason to doub that the case was fairly submitted to the jury; and, no error of law to the prejudice of the defendant's rights having occurred, the judgment of the supreme court of the territory of Utah affirming the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
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