The Law of Railways - What are the Rights of Ticket-Holders

December 5, 1870


A case in England has stirred up a lot of discussion in the United States. As both countries railway systems have grown and progressed along side each other, the questions and problems addressed in this case have an importance to those who utilize the railways, those who own them, and those who make laws regarding them.


A case has just been tried in the English Court of Exchequer, before Baron Martin and a jury, which is of much interest to the very large number of persons who hold season tickets on our railway. The law of railways in England has grown up same time with that in the United States, and similar questions have arisen in both countries. The decisions of the courts of the State of New York, in this branch of the law are regarded by the British courts with great respect, and frequently are referred to and followed by them. The fact that in these cases the tribunals of one country do not seldom look to the Courts of the other for precedents and guidance, makes the eases to which we refer more interesting and important to us.It is entitled "Buckmaster against the Great Eastern Railway Company," and was tried on November 10th. The plaintiff was a miller at Framlingham, in Suffolk, and the holder of a season ticket issued by the company, by which they contracted to convey him by any of their trains running between Framlingham and London. In the course of his business it was necessary for the plaintiff to frequently attend the London corn market. The company advertised an early train to start from Framlingham at 6:45 A.M,, and one morning last autumn the plaintiff went down to the station to go to the market by this train.But it so happened that on this particular morning the fireman was lazy. At a quarter to 7 the fire in the engine was so low that there was no steam, and of course the train could not start. Although of apparently little present consequence to the officers of the road at Framlingham, this delay was no slight matter to Mr. Buckmaster, and so he informed them. Nothing was done to forward the train, however, and the station-master brusquely told Mr. Buckmaster, in an answer to his complaints, that if he wanted to go on he must pay for a special train. This he agreed to do, and a special train was ordered and took him to London at an expense of nearly $200. But he reached the city too later for the market, and thereby incurred a loss of $50. The suit was brought to recover these two amounts - that paid for the special train, and the loss consequent upon the delay.When the plaintiff's case had been proved, the counsel for the defendant submitted that no cause of action against the company had been shown. He argued that the contract between the parties was expressed on the season ticket, the terms of which were that it was issued subject to the rules and regulations of the company for the time being, and that the time-tables expressly stated that while every exertion would be made to secure punctuality, the arrival and departure of trains at the time therein stated would not be guaranteed, nor would the company hold themselves responsible for any delay or its consequences arising out of accident or other causes. He argued also that the company were not in any event liable for the damages caused by loss of market. On these points the Judge decided against the railway. In charging the Jury, he said that no action would lie against the company for the mere discontinuance of any particular train. That, however, was not this case. Here the defendant's servant had been guilty of the grossest negligence, in consequence of which there was an entire failure to forward an advertised train. No accident whatever had occurred; and it could not even be said that the company had used their best efforts to send the train. On the contrary, they had done nothing of the kind. As to the damages, he thought the plaintiff ought to recover the pecuniary loss which he suffered through losing the market, in addition to the cost of the special train. The jury rendered a verdict for the plaintiff for both amounts in full. After the verdict, Baron Martin said he was surprised that the company had not soon repaid to the plaintiff the amount which they charged him for the special train.
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Travis Terry




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