Pa. R. Co. v. Chamberlain

288 U.S. 333, 53 S. Ct. 391 (1933)

 

RULE:

Where proven facts give equal support to each of two inconsistent inferences; neither of them being established, judgment, as a matter of law, must go against the party upon whom rests the necessity of sustaining one of these inferences as against the other, before he is entitled to recover.

FACTS:

The decedent, a brakeman for the company, fell to his death from a string of railroad cars during a maneuver to break up and make up chains of cars. The administratrix claimed that the decedent fell from the train on which he was riding because of a collision caused by the company's negligence. The only witness for the administratrix testified that he heard a bump, but that it was not loud enough for him to turn around. He testified that he did not actually see a collision. Three employees riding the nine-car string testified that no such collision occurred. The trial court directed the jury to find a verdict in favor of petitioner. This was reversed on appeal.

ISSUE:

Did the trial court properly direct a verdict in favor of the company in light of the unambiguous testimony of the sole witness for the administratrix?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The district court properly directed a verdict in favor of the company on the state of the evidence before it. The administratrix's case could not properly be submitted to the jury in the face of testimony that gave a mere inference that the alleged collision occurred, in light of unambiguous testimony by those involved that no such collision took place.  The rule is settled whenever, in the trial of a civil case, the evidence is clearly such that if a verdict were rendered for one of the parties the other would be entitled to a new trial. It is the duty of the judge to direct the jury to find according to the views of the court.

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