Monday, November 11, 2013

Fuller v. Illinois Central R.R. case brief

Fuller v. Illinois Central R.R. case brief summary
56 So. 783 (Miss. 1911)

Plaintiff children brought a claim against defendant railroad company for the killing of their father. The company claimed that the deceased farther was contributorily negligent. The Circuit Court of Attala County (Mississippi) sustained the company's motion to exclude from the jury all of the evidence and gave a peremptory instruction to the jury to find for the company. The jury did so. The children appealed from the judgment.


The company's train struck the deceased as he was driving his horse-drawn wagon. Due to a dip in the road and a pile of cross-ties, the deceased might have been unaware of the approaching train, but that the train's driver was probably able to see the deceased. By proper application of the air brakes and the sanding of the track, the train could have been stopped within 200 feet, but there was no evidence that there had been any effort to stop.


  • The court held that the evidence should not have been excluded. Miss. Code § 1985 (1906) provided that in all damages actions against railroad companies, proof of injury inflicted by the running of a company's train was prima facie evidence of the want of reasonable skill and care. 
  • The peremptory instruction should not have been given because the company did not rebut the §1985 presumption of liability. 
  • There was no evidence that those in charge of the train did not see the deceased or that exculpated the company. 
  • The company did not rebut the § 1985 presumption by application of the last clear chance doctrine. 
  • It did not show that the deceased's carelessness was tantamount to design, thereby becoming the proximate cause of his injury.
The court reversed the judgment for the company in the wrongful death action brought by the children of the deceased, and remanded.

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