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Ainsworth v. New York Cent. & Hudson River Railroad Co.

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

May 8, 1912

EFFIE M. AINSWORTH, as Administratrix, etc., of WILLIAM I. AINSWORTH, Late of the City and County of Albany, New York, Deceased, Appellant,

APPEAL by the plaintiff, Effie M. Ainsworth, as administratrix, etc., from a judgment of the Supreme Court in favor of the defendant, entered in the office of the clerk of the county of Albany on the 9th day of May, 1911, upon the dismissal of the complaint at the close of plaintiff's case by direction of the court on a trial at the Albany Trial Term, and also from an order entered in said clerk's office on the same day, directing the dismissal of the complaint.


Richard O. Bassett, for the appellant.

William L. Visscher, for the respondent.


From the evidence the jury might have found that the speed limit in the yard was six miles per hour, and that the car causing the intestate's death was proceeding at an excessive speed, that the switch stand was not lighted and that there were knuckles and other obstructions in the six foot. It is not necessary for the plaintiff to prove whether the intestate tripped over a part of the switch stand, the rod or obstructions in the six foot. It is enough, if it appears that there were obstructions, and that by reason of the excessive speed, the failure to light the switch stand, and the other conditions existing, the intestate's death was caused by the negligence of the defendant. The judgment should, therefore, be reversed

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and a new trial granted, with costs to appellant to abide the event.

All concurred, except LYON, J., dissenting, in opinion, in which SMITH, P. J., concurred.

LYON, J. (dissenting):

In defendant's yard at West Albany, in April, 1910, were several systems of tracks, for the purpose of making up trains, known as pockets, consisting of the main or stem track, running easterly and westerly, and of switches or branch tracks, which, as to pocket No. 2, running southeasterly, left the stem track every eighty feet or thereabouts. On the northerly side of pocket No. 2, and between the stem tracks of pockets Nos. 1 and 2, was a space of about ten feet in width known as the base, or more commonly as the 'six foot,' along which it was necessary that the pin puller should pass in his work of manipulating the levers which pulled the coupling pins, and thereby released the cars and allowed them to pass by their own momentum into the various branches from the stem track. At the point where each branch left the stem track was a switching device supported upon two long ties, which passed underneath the stem track and extended northerly into the base or 'six foot,' a distance of about five and one-half feet. Towards the end of the two long ties stood an iron switch stand about two and a half or three feet in height, upon the top of which was a target and pin for holding a lamp, which when lighted at night would indicate the location of the switch stand, as well as whether the switch was open or closed. The clear space between the switch stand and the northerly rail of the stem track in pocket No. 2 was about three feet. On the evening of April 26, 1910, at about eight o'clock, plaintiff's intestate, whose work as conductor and pin puller had been mainly confined to pocket No. 1, was engaged in that capacity in pocket No. 2, and, while shifting a freight car from the stem track to branch track No. 7, was killed by being run over by a refrigerator car, which was the next car nearer the engine and the one from which deceased had just uncoupled the freight car. When last seen alive plaintiff's intestate was passing branch 5 running alongside the refrigerator car. At

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or near branch 4 deceased with his lantern had given the engineer the signal to stop, which the engineer had obeyed, but after the locomotive stopped, the refrigerator car passed on sufficiently far to take up the slack of the train, when it came to a standstill. One of the witnesses testified that he saw the lantern of deceased pass out of sight around the easterly end of the refrigerator car while the slack was being taken up. The lantern was found broken lying in the base or 'six foot.' There was no eye witness of the occurrence which caused the death of plaintiff's intestate, but he was found between the rails of the stem track under the refrigerator car, about midway of the car, and about fifteen feet east of switch No. 5, and so badly injured from the front truck of the car having passed over him that he soon died. Certain witnesses testified that the ties or supporters which supported the switch and switch stand were two or three inches higher than the ground between the switch stand and the northerly rail of the stem track, and also that at times knuckles, coupling pins, drawbars and chunks of coal were allowed to accumulate in the base or 'six foot,' making it an unsafe place in which to work, and plaintiff contends that it was stumbling over one of these in the darkness which caused plaintiff's intestate to fall underneath the car. The night was dark. Aside from the lantern which deceased carried, the place where deceased was at work was lighted by two electric lights, one of which was maintained by the city on the bridge, about two hundred feet westerly from branch 5 in No. 2 pocket, and the other was maintained by the defendant company and was located near the round house in defendant's yard, about one hundred feet southeasterly from branch 5. There were no lights upon any of the eight switch points in pocket No. 2, and there had been lights on only a portion of the switch points in pocket No. 1, where deceased had been accustomed to work.

In granting the motion for a nonsuit the learned trial judge said: 'The weakness of your case is that you are here without any evidence as to the manner in which this accident occurred. All that we know is that Ainsworth was under the car and was run over. There is no evidence as to what ...

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