Lavender v. Kurn case brief
Posture: Jury trial returned a verdict for the plaintiff (Lavender), but the Supreme Court of Missouri reversed the judgment because of a lack of substantial evidence of negligence to support the submission of case to jury. SCOTUS reverses and reinstates the trial court’s judgment
Facts: Haney is a switch-operator for employer Illinois Central which owned yards, and at least some of his pay was by Frisco. Haney threw the switch to permit the train to back into the station; defendant’s claim Haney was required to cross to south side of track before train passed, and conductor testified he saw Haney cross, but there was evidence saying that Haney’s duties required him to wait at the switch to change the signals back again. He was found dead, having been truck in back of the head. His head was facing south and unclear evidence to support him falling forward to the south but no eye-witness testimony. Conclusion at autopsy was that his skull was fractured by a fast moving small object and that such an object may have been attached to the train or a person. Plaintiff says train was negligent and that an object hit him as it was passing while defendant thought he was murdered and that it was impossible for train to hit him. There wasn’t much evidence to support that murder theory; however a foreman testified that he examined train and found nothing out of place. The Missouri Supreme court said it is possible he could have been hit but it was pure speculation and not a preponderance of the evidence. Plaintiff failed to put forth substantial evidence for his case.
Reasoning: SCOTUS said that while there was some evidence that plaintiff really was not injured as a result of negligence, the jury verdict made the inference that he was and defendant is not able to re-litigate a factual dispute in a reviewing court. It would be wrong for trial court to weigh evidence and testimony they did not hear. Only a complete absence of probative facts is reversible error but where there is evidence that jury’s verdict can be right, it stays.