United States Supreme Court Cases

Gallick v. The B. & O. Railroad Co., 83 S.Ct. 659, 372 U.S. 108 (1963)

Plaintiff was a foreman for the railroad. There had been for many years a pool of stagnant water with dead rats, pigeons, and insects in the area he was working. While in that area, he was bitten by a large bug on the left leg, which became infected and ultimately resulted in the amputation of both legs. The Federal Employer’s Liability Act makes railroads liable in damages to any employee suffering injury…resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of the railroad. The railroad argued that it was not negligent in allowing the stagnant pool to exist and that if he was injured from a bug bite, the consequences were unforeseeable. The jury found for the plaintiff. The Court of Appeals reversed the verdict. The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed plaintiffs’ appeal. The United States Supreme Court accepted the case based on the interpretation of the federal statute and held that the jury correctly found for the plaintiff based upon the evidence and the verdict should be reinstated for plaintiff. The “bug bite” case, as it came to be known in law school textbooks, was important because it revolutionized the causation analysis for injuries involving railroad workers and made it easier for them to recover well deserved benefits.

Harris v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co., 80 S.Ct. 22, 361 U.S. 15 (1959)

Plaintiff, a railroad worker, was injured while trying to retrack a derailed car. The jury found the railroad negligent in failing to use reasonable care to provide its employee a safe place to work in that he was required to work on a crosstie which was elevated a substantial distance above ground level and which was covered with grease, affording unstable footing. The jury also found that the railroad’s negligence played a part in producing the employee’s injury. The railroad’s appeal resulted in the Ohio Supreme Court taking the verdict away. Plaintiff appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reinstated plaintiff’s verdict holding that it was supported by the evidence.