Monday, November 11, 2013

Pokora v. Wabash Ry. case brief

Pokora v. Wabash Ry. case brief summary
292 U.S. 98 (1934)

Petitioner sought review by certiorari of a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which affirmed a district court's directed verdict in favor of respondent railroad in petitioner's personal injury action. He was injured when the railroad's train struck the truck he was driving at a train crossing, and the district court directed a verdict based on his contributory negligence.


Petitioner brought a negligence action for personal injuries that he suffered in a train crossing accident, and the district court directed a verdict for the railroad because of petitioner's contributory negligence.


  • In reversing and remanding the lower courts' decisions, the court found that the issue of whether petitioner was negligent under the circumstances was a question for the jury. 
  • As such, it was inappropriate to direct the verdict. 
  • In its ruling, the court limited the application of B. & O. R. Co. v. Goodman, 275 U.S. 66, which stated that, if a driver could not be sure otherwise whether a train was dangerously near, he was required to stop and get out of his vehicle to investigate. 
  • In petitioner's case, the record did not show that the train was visible to him while there still was time to stop. 
  • The testimony permitted the inference that his truck was in the zone of danger by the time his field of vision was enlarged enough so that he could see the train. 
  • His case was for the jury unless, as a matter of law, he was subject to a duty to get out of the vehicle before it crossed the switch, walk to the front, and look for a train.


The court reversed the decision and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

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