Workmen’s Compensation – Federal Employers’ Liability Act – Basis of Liability Not Common Law Negligence

Petitioner, a laborer in a railroad section gang, was assigned to burn weeds near a railroad track. He was injured when he fell into a culvert as he was trying to escape from smoke and flames which had been fanned by a passing train. A jury in the Circuit Court of St. Louis awarded damages under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). The Supreme Court of Missouri reversed upon the ground that the evidence was not sufficient to support a finding of the railroad’s liability, and the case should not have been allowed to go to a jury. On certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States, held, reversed. Statutory negligence under the FELA is significantly different from common law negligence. Under FELA it is enough to prove that the negligence of the employer played some part, however small, in the injury or death of the petitioner. Rogers v. Missouri P. R. Co., 353 U.S. 500 (1957).