Civil Procedure Keyed to Cound
Lavender v. Kurn
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Lavender, Petitioner and the administrator of the estate of L.E. Haney, a former railroad employee, sued Respondent Kurn, trustees of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company (Frisco), and Respondent Illinois Central Railroad Company (Illinois Central), the former employer of Haney under FELA. The evidence presented in the case below showed that Haney, a former switchman for Illinois Central had been working on a dark night in Memphis. Haney was in charge of clearing the switch for Frisco’s train that was backing into the Memphis station. Haney switched the tracks for the train to back up, which it did. Haney was supposed to switch the light from red to green once the train cleared the switch; when the light did not turn green railroad employees went back to where Haney was and found him dead. He suffered from an injury to the back of the head. The evidence presented showed that Haney had fallen forward. The actual cause of his death was disputed. Petitioner argued that he was hit by a mail hook protruding from one of the cars on the backing train that could pivot out of the side of the train as much as 12-14 inches. There were mounds of dirt and cinder of varying heights along the tracks. Petitioner’s theory was that while Haney was standing on the mound and the overhanging section of the car passed by, the mail hook was sticking out and hit Haney inside the back of the head. Respondents’ theory was that Haney was murdered by an unknown assailant. The Supreme Court of Missouri held that it would be too speculative and conjectural to infer that the mail hook extended 12-14 inches out of the train. In addition, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that there was not enough evidence presented by Petitioner to show that insufficient light and uneven ground could have contributed to Haney’s death. Finally, a foreman’s testimony that he heard an unidentified switchman relay that the switchman was told that Haney died from something sticking out of the train was inadmissible hearsay. Based on these grounds, the Supreme Court of Missouri reversed the verdict for Petition. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States.
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