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Deville v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co.

Supreme Court of California
Oct 1, 1875
50 Cal. 383 (Cal. 1875)


         Appeal from the District Court, Seventeenth Judicial District, County of Los Angeles.

         The plaintiff owned a span of horses and a wagon, with which he was engaged in peddling vegetables in the city of San Jose. On the 26th day of April, 1872, he drove his horses in front of the house of one Bertrand, in San Jose, not far from the railroad track, and left them unhitched while he went into the house with vegetables. He knew that the cars passed there every day at about that hour, but knew that his horses were accustomed to railroad trains, and were not frightened at them. On coming out of Bertrand's house, he saw his horses moving towards the railroad track, and pursued them, and caught hold of the lines just before they reached the track, and standing on the ground attempted to turn them, so as to avoid a collision. In doing so, the hind wheel of the wagon was struck by a car, and broken in pieces. The plaintiff was hit on the shoulder and thrown against the wagon, or to the ground, and his hand was injured so as to require amputation. The horses moved on a few paces, and stopped. This was an action to recover damages for the injury. When the plaintiff rested, the defendant moved for a nonsuit, which was denied by the court. The plaintiff recovered judgment, and the defendant appealed.


         The court below erred in denying the defendant's motion for a nonsuit. The case made by the plaintiff shows that he was guilty of negligence, which proximately contributed to the injury which he received. Such being the case, he is not entitled to recover.

         In considering the question whether the plaintiff's negligence proximately contributed to his injury, the degree of the defendant's negligence is immaterial. (Kerwhacker v. Cleveland, etc., R. Co., 3 Ohio St. 172; Galena, etc., R. Co. v. Jacobs , 20 Ill. 478; Macon, etc., R. Co. v. Davis, 27 Geo. 113; Wolf v. Beard, 8 Carr. & Payne, 373.)

          S. W. Sanderson, for the Appellant.

         D. M. Delmas, for the Respondent.

         It was not negligence for plaintiff to leave his horses unhitched. Plaintiff had been peddling vegetables for four or five years. He met the cars daily in this street, and his horses had never become frightened. The necessity of his business required that his team should remain unhitched, and this is a universalcustom.

         The court could not say that this was negligence. What universal custom sanctions in the case of peddlers, hackmen and teamsters cannot be called negligence. (Shear. & Redf. on Neg. 36.)

         Plaintiff's attempt to rescue his property from danger was not imprudent. The question whether plaintiff was negligent, and whether his negligence was contributory, was properly determinable by the jury. (Scherhold v. N. B. & M. R. R. Co. , 40 Cal. 447; Kellogg v. The Chicago, etc. , 26 Wis. 223; Quirk v. Holt , 99 Mass. 194.)

         OPINION          By the Court:

         The act of the plaintiff in leaving his team unhitched, in close proximity to the track of the railroad, at a time when the train usually came, was negligence on his part in the first instance. When he subsequently, upon the arrival of the train, and when the team was upon the track, attempted their rescue, he was guilty of additional negligence, which proximately contributed to the misfortune which he suffered.

         We think the motion for the nonsuit should have been granted.

         Judgment and order denying a new trial reversed, and cause remanded.

Summaries of

Deville v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co.

Supreme Court of California
Oct 1, 1875
50 Cal. 383 (Cal. 1875)
Case details for

Deville v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co.

Case Details


Court:Supreme Court of California

Date published: Oct 1, 1875


50 Cal. 383 (Cal. 1875)

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