Alderman v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. – Case Brief
Alderman v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 113 F. Supp. 881 (S. Dist. W.Va. 1953).
Facts: Alderman (P) was traveling the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (D) using a free pass when he was injured in a train derailment. Alderman’s pass stated that D was free from all liability arising from injury to non-fare paying passengers. P sued D for wanton or willful conduct. D moved for summary judgment under Rule 56. The defect which caused the track to break would not have been visible upon inspection.
Issue: Is summary judgment in favor of the defendant appropriate where the plaintiff cannot meet his burden of proof?
Holding and Rule: Yes. Summary judgment is proper when there are clear and undisputed facts, and when the other party’s complaint or defense fails to establish a legal premise upon which relief could be granted.
The court stated that release protects a railroad against ordinary negligence, but a railroad is always liable for wanton or willful acts. In order that one may be held liable for willful or wanton conduct, it must be shown that he was conscious of his conduct, and conscious, from his knowledge of existing conditions, that injury would likely or probably result from his conduct, and that with reckless indifference to consequences he consciously and intentionally did some wrongful act or omitted some known duty which produced the injurious result.
The court held that the affidavits of D showed that P could not establish this part of his case. To prevail, P must show that D knew of the defect in the rail, knew that the defect would break if a train went over it, and was recklessly indifferent to the consequences. This type of defect was not discoverable by visual examination. D did make a visual examination the day before the accident. P had no evidence to prove his case.
Disposition: Motion for summary judgment granted.
Notes: In this case, P must show that D was aware of the defect in order to prevail and P had no evidence. If there is any dispute about the material facts of a case, a summary judgment cannot be granted. A judge must construe all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.