Whenever facts are in dispute or the evidence is such that fair-minded men may draw different inferences, a measure of speculation and conjecture is required on the part of those whose duty it is to settle the dispute by choosing what seems to them to be the most reasonable inference. Only when there is a complete absence of probative facts to support the conclusion reached does a reversible error appear. But where there is an evidentiary basis for a jury's verdict, the jury is free to discard or disbelieve whatever facts are inconsistent with its conclusion. And an appellate court's function is exhausted when that evidentiary basis becomes apparent, it being immaterial that the court might draw a contrary inference or feel that another conclusion is more reasonable.
A state court granted judgment for petitioner administrator in its action against respondent railway company trustees under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, for the negligent death of an employee. The state supreme court reversed and held that there was no substantial evidence of negligence to support the submission of the case to the jury. The Court reversed the state supreme court's judgment and held that there was sufficient evidence of negligence on the part of the railway company trustees to justify the submission of the case to the jury and to require appellate courts to abide by the verdict rendered by the jury.
Was there sufficient evidence of negligence to justify the submission of the case to the jury and to require appellate courts to abide by the verdict rendered by the jury?
The Court held that there was evidence from which it might be inferred that the end of the mail hook struck the deceased in the back of the head. The evidence was uncontradicted that it was very dark at the place where the deceased was working and the surrounding ground was high and uneven. The evidence also showed that the area was entirely within the domination and control of the railway company. The Court held that it was not unreasonable to conclude that these conditions constituted an unsafe and dangerous working place and that such conditions contributed in part to the deceased's death, assuming that it resulted primarily from the mail hook striking his head.