Civil Procedure Keyed to Subrin
Erie Railroad v. Tompkins
In July of 1934 Defendant visited his mother-in-law’s house in Pennsylvania. He walked part of the distance along the railroad tracks of the Plaintiff. A train passed, and an open door on a refrigerator car struck him and knocked him partially under the train. His right arm was severed. Defendant then brought suit against the railroad in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. Under Pennsylvania law the railroad would have been liable only for “wanton” negligence. However, rather than apply Pennsylvania law, the District Judge, at Defendant’s urging, applied the “general law” that the railroad was liable even if it was guilty only of “ordinary negligence. The jury returned a verdict for Defendant. Plaintiff appealed, but the Second Circuit upheld Defendant’s verdict. The railroad then sought certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States.
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