Pecora v Wabash Railroad – Case Brief


Crossing 4 tracks

View was blocked by parked box cars

Crossed –> hit by train

Cardozo belives the Goodman rule (you must get out and look at RR crossing) should be limited to the Goodman case

Suppose possible Jury instruction was, if the plaintiff didnt take reasonable care he should not win

If Plaintiff win what would Appellate do?

If they follow Goodman then they would say that its reversed because Pecora didnt get out to look (just as Goodman failed to do)

In Goodman, Holmes set a standard of conduct when crossing RR. If you cant see or hear then you MUST get out to look, binding Supreme Ct holding.

Cardozo believes the Goodman rule should be limited to the Goodman case

pg63 Holmes rule may be futile or even dangerous, to get out and look as the Goodman case implies may be dangerous in some cases

Old View (Holmes) – When will a court take a case from the Jury?

  1. When it has a clear policy on the matter
  2. When the judge has lots of practical experience in the matter
  3. When cases repeat them selves (ie crossing railroads as long as facts repeat and jurys are consistant)
  4. When the jury is oscillating too and fro, cant make up their mind

Cardozo thinks that Holmes view is dangerous

Modern View (Cardozo) – Generally leave everything up to the jury, unless it is obvious the jury could only rule one way

Very reluctant to take away a decision from the jury

We have objective standards that leave it up to a jury?

Blameworthiness

Contributory Fault

Rules of law

Judges may not trust the Jury, small town 500 everyone knows eachother, most likely to be sympathetic to the parties who were hit by the train

Judges at the time wanted to protect the RR because the Juries favored the plaintiffs, and the Jury would most likely try to adopt strict liability to punish the RR

Judge made a legal rule, anytime a P doesnt get out of his car to look than he is Negligent. Jury has no right to debate this because there are no exceptions

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