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The Influence Of Juries Against Street-railway Corporations

The Influence Of Juries Against Street-railway Corporations image
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There are inany facts to prove that thcre is a growing class of unscrupu loua lawyers in nearly all the larger citieö of the country who make it their business to hunt up cases w'aere peo pie have sustained kouio injury, direct ly or Indirectly, by means of tean or Btreet railwayw, in order that they may have an opportunity to feed upon such railways through the prevail ing tendency of juries to decide againsi corporations whenever the excuse offers. This habit of juries is well illustrated in the words of a western judge, who recently said: "We affirm a good raany unjust judgnients against railways beeause juries will find verdicts against them if there is any pretext for so doing, and unless on a record there is such a want of evidence to support the verdict, or what evidence there may be in that direction is so overwhelmed by opposing evidence that the verdict is glaringly wrong, ve have no right to disturb it." It is difficult to learn where this jury T)rejudice orlginated; that is, why a jury prejndice should exist against raihvay eorporations ;vs a class rather than against firma. But it exists, whatever the reason or its Justice, as the. above extract taken from the Railway Review well testifies, and the worst of it is, unserupulous lawyers are in plenty to take advantage of it for the purpose of not only iuciting cases into activity where the natural sense oí the complainant would not dream oí there being a case, but these lawyers make it their business to take up a case whether there is any Justice on their side or not, well knowinji that juries will give them the beneflts of all doubts. A good instaure in point is a suit brought against an ice company last month in Brooklyn, where, according to the complaint lianded in, a boy was running after an ice-wagon to steal a ride, and while clinging to the wagon, one of the cakes oí ice worked loóse and feil out on him and injured his head. The boy, througii his guardián, brought suit against the ice company for ten thousand lars daniages. Wlth such a precedent we may reasonably expect tha burglarè mny be the nest on the lis to bring suit for any damages they may sustain white robbing corpora tions of Tlieir property. Of cours it was unfortunate that the boy wa injured, but the idea that the company is responsiblc undér süCli eircumstancee i.s merely a part of that injustice wiicli the judge above so wel] de.ífribes. Whilé the icé company is not a street raihvay, it i.s a jood Ilustration of the same kind oí suits brought against street railway.s and for precieely the same cause. Boys will steai rides, and many of them get injured while doing it; in fact, boys worry bob-tail car drivers sometimes to an unbearable extent, and we have ourselves witnessed instances where we have thought the driver would Lave been justitied in using some pretty severe measures to stop it. Yet if any injury happens to one of these painfully anuoying ehildren, an injury which tliey have wholly brought on thernselves, a jury nine cases ou: of ten will decide against the eompany. Injustice of this kiud is not in beiialf of the public good; it is a breeder of vite iu itself. If a corporatioi: is flagrantly or justly in fault no; a word is to be said, but there is no sense in niaking a Corporation responsible for accidents whieh are duo to the carelessness or the mischief of the injuured, or where every reasonatfle care has been taken by the Corporation to avoid them. ünly a few days ago an honest and intelligent man was on one of these juries- his name is Henry George, well known in 11 parts of the country- and this man had the audacity to decide in favor of a street-railway company, greatly to the astonishment of the court, the jury and a large part of the people, not that they were tonished through the evidence, as that was not a question in their mines, but the fact that Henry George, a proíessed Champion of the people, should decide in favor of a streetraihvay corporation, whatever the ■nature of the evidence, seemed to be a point beyond the average understanding. When called upon to explain, to a reporter, Mr. George said he decided in favor of the company because the evidence did not permit him to decide in any other way. This was a new view of the subject, and those who lost an absurd case that liad according to evidence no excuse for existence, have not yet got over the striking impréssion made upon them by Mr. George's originality. The elevated railway of New York city has hundreds of suits now against it which are awaiting their turn in the courts, aggregating in amount almost enough to swamp the entire Corporation if all are decided against it. Lawyers are fattening on these cases, not because of their justice, but because there seems to be in opportunity to incite legal controversy and damages, which in most of them s mor.' Imaginary tian real, often times relating to some shadow that is cast on a neighboring property by the road's plant. The point we make here is nol agalnsi any real damage to property recovering its loss, but that unscrupulous attorneys go about aad inciic üctitipus rases ato oxistence-a practice which the attorneys think wlll pay baoause Juries generally decide against corporations on principie. Nor nave we státed the worst of thi.s issue. Polltietans note this Jury sentiment as an expreelBion of the popular will, and in seeking votes to retain office they, when elected, look upon sucli decisions as modela for their own conduct; CQnsequently, whenever any legislativa taeasure ts introduced at all calculated to antajtonize transportation oompanios, without ponsidering the justice of the issue bofore them they strlve to flatter what they supiose is the voiee of their constituents by votiiiK against railway prosress. It is a sad confession to make, but it must be said the majority oí the legislators, both state and national, do not vote upou the questions put before them from a standpoint of strict justice, but chiefly look upon all issues brought up for their eonsideration in the light oí how they will affect the "party," or they vote in accordance with what they suppose will give them the best politieal "pull." So long as such a state of politieal morality more or less rules this country, unjust laws and decisons are likely to prevalí. The only complete remedy is in the press, in :he instruction the press can give the public by exposing the short-sightedïess of everything contrary to a strictly just or honest policy. The root of the trouble is in conipromising vitli crime, or compromising with op)res8ions, be such oppresslons against corporations or against the humblest individual, and unti! the people themselves. their juríes and their eaucuges, rlgidly stand by honesty, in every form, it cannot be expeeted that legisators will so mueh oppose their owu ockets a-s to antagonlze the average vill, wherever they are ablé to learn what that raay be.


Old News
Ann Arbor Courier