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A much higher degree of care, both in respect to the rate of speed and the watchfulness to prevent casualties, should manifestly be required when trains are passing through, or remaining stationary in the streets of a city, or densely populated village. It is not stretching the rule unduly in such a case to say that, under such circumstances, a railroad company is bound to use the utmost care to guard against the dangers that obviously attend such a condition. Care must be proportioned to the danger of accidents, and that where there is great danger, there must be a corresponding degree of care.
Plaintiff individual’s hotel stood in a village near the railroad's tracks. The individual was building an addition to the hotel when one of the railroad's freight trains stopped in front of the hotel. Embers from the locomotive blew into the addition through a door left open by a carpenter and ignited wood shavings on the floor. The building was consumed by fire. Consequently, plaintiff individual brought an action against defendant railroad for damages. During trial, the trial court instructed the jury that the railroad was required to use the utmost care when operating its trains in a populated village and ordinary care when operating in the open country. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the individual. The defendant railroad appealed.
Under the circumstances, did the trial court err In entering judgment in favor of the plaintiff individual?
On appeal, the court affirmed. The court held that the trial court properly instructed the jury that the railroad was required to use the utmost care when operating its trains in a populated village and ordinary care when operating in the open country. The court also held that the trial court properly refused to instruct the jury that the individual was negligent because the door to the hotel addition was left open and the embers passed through the door. The trial court properly left the question of the individual's negligence to the jury. The court concluded that the acts of the carpenter could not be charged to the individual as his negligence where there was no evidence that the carpenter was the servant of the individual.