White vs. Midland Valley
Francis J. White, age 14
Francis J. White, who was about 14 years old at the time, was en route from Indiana to visit his father at Bixby, OK. He arrived at Muskogee on the morning of February 24, 1921, prior to the time Midland Valley's train departed from Muskogee for his destination. He purchased his ticket for the morning train, but failed to board it. Instead, he boarded another Midland Valley train later in the day. That train did not make a scheduled stop at Bixby.
According to White's testimony, he was not told the train did not stop at Bixby until after he boarded. He said the conductor of the train advised him that the train would be slowed down to a safe rate of speed for him to alight from the moving train.
On approaching the town of Bixby, White went to the rear platform of the first passenger coach, where the brakeman advise him it was safe for him to jump. When the train had slowed down to a speed of about 10 miles per hour, the brakeman said to him "now."
White understood that the brakeman meant it was safe for him to alight from the moving train. He acted accordingly, which resulted in personal injury. White testified the brakeman did not say, "jump," but that he understood from the expression of the brakeman in the use of the word, "now," that he meant that it was safe for him to leave the train in that manner.
White said he was not experienced in the matter of dangers in alighting from a moving train. He said he relied upon the judgment and direction of the brakeman.
According to evidence, White had ridden on a train in Indiana two or three times previously. He had made the trip from Indiana to Bixby the year before on a train. He was well grown for his age, and of the average intelligence for boys of his age.
Midland Valley filed its general denial and a plea of contributory negligence. Their evidence sharply contradicted White's testimony about the circumstances under which he jumped from the train.
The brakeman testified that he did not direct White to jump from the train. He said he saw White on the platform and called to him not to jump from the train.
The conductor testified that he advised White that it would be necessary for him to go on to Tulsa. He said he told White he would arrange for his transportation from Tulsa to Bixby in the afternoon of the same day. White had not anticipated the need to go to Tulsa, then return to Bixby, so he jumped from the train.
The jury awarded judgment to White for the sum of $ 1,250. However, this is not the end of the story.
Midland Valley appealed saying the verdict and judgment were contrary to the evidence and the law. It appears the earlier court failed to give appropriate instructions to the jury about contributory negligence, which was constitutionally required in such cases. The question was, "Did White act as a reasonably prudent person would have done under all the circumstances and conditions?"
The higher court found in favor of Midland Valley Railroad on March 24, 1925Other names mentioned in this case file: Dist. Court Judge Edwin McNeill, and attorneys O.E. Swan, Christy Russell, John L. Ward, A.W. Chase, Ed Crossland and George Paschal.
Source of Information:
Supreme Court of Oklahoma, Division 4, case 15016 (24 Mar 1925)