Saturday, December 28, 2013

Marsh v. Illinois Central Railway case brief

Marsh v. Illinois Cent. R. case brief summary
175 F.2d 498 (1949)

Appellant employee sought review of an order of a United States district court, which granted the motion of appellee employer for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in the employee's negligence action. The employer took a cross-appeal from the district court's refusal to grant a motion for new trial in the event of reversal of the judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

The employer, who was a fireman on a switch engine, filed suit for a personal injury alleged to have been caused by negligence in maintaining the switching track and the apron on which he stood in firing. At trial, the employer's motion for an instructed verdict was denied, and a verdict for the employee was returned. The district court then granted the employer's motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, holding that the weight of the evidence was so overwhelmingly against the employee that, as a matter of law, it became the district court's duty to withdraw the case from the jury and to enter a judgment for the employer. The district court denied the employer's motion for a new trial because it found no other errors of law.


  • On appeal, the court held that the district court judge had common law power to grant a new trial in his discretion regardless of error. 
  • In reversing, the court determined that the district court could not exercise discretion in granting a judgment notwithstanding the verdict because that was a matter of law. 
  • Although the district court judge did not believe the employee's evidence, that was not grounds for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

The court reversed the judgment entered for the employer and also reversed the order denying the employer's motion for new trial. The court then remanded the cause for proceedings consistent with the court's opinion.

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