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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Stop, Look and Listen - Schultz v Penna Railroad Co

Researching the last name of Schultz can have its challenges but sometimes you are lucky enough to have a litigious ancestor.

Bernard Schultz - 1834 - 1875

Bernard Schultz lived in Philadelphia with his wife Catharine (1832-1889) and three children: William Henry, Catharine (aka Dollie) and Washington. Initial evidence shows that Bernard was a jeweler and may have been in business with his brother Frederick. 

I knew when Bernard died from cemetery records and over time I acquired his death certificate. Later I found newspaper articles which said Bernard was driving a carriage and was struck by a train. The horse and passenger survived, Bernard did not.  Later I found a legal notice that said Catharine Schultz had lost a suit against the Pennsylvania Railroad.

I admit that I lost interest in Bernard at this point - his son William Henry and wife Nellie Nielson Schultz Evans were more interesting to research so Bernard's accident went on the back burner.

Until yesterday...

Something or someone told me to go to Google Books and search on Schultz Stop Look Listen Pennsylvania.  Why these words?  I remembered that in the article saying Catharine lost her suit it mentioned that Bernard had failed to "Stop, Look and Listen".  After a few minutes of playing with the sequence and words I found it!

Reading the case notes was quite interesting. I was surprised that the term Stop, Look and Listen was actually used in legal cases in the 1870's. It was also interesting that the judge seemed to think that the railroad needed more governance in the way the trains ran through 'populous' areas.

I was surprised to find that there were literally hundreds of cases where people sued various railroads for loss of life and livestock to be found. Going forward I am going to take a closer look at Bernard's life prior to his death and his wife Catharine who had the courage to stand up to the railroad in 1878.

Good Going Catharine!!!

Take Care,



Weekly Notes of Cases.Vol. VI.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 19, 1878. [No. 6.]
Supreme Court.
Jan. '77, 124.                     Jan. 25, 1878.

Schultz v. Penna. Railroad Co.
Railroads—Negligence— Contributory negligence
—Duty of traveller in crossing railroad tracks
— Town and country.

The rule that a traveler about to cross a railroad track must "stop, look, and listen," as laid down in Penna. Railroad Co. v. Benle (23 Sm. 509), is not varied by the fact

That such crossing is upon a street within the limits of a city.

 Railroad Co. v. Ackerman, 24 Sm. 268, distinguished.

 Error to the Common Pleas No. 4, of Philadelphia County.

Case, by the widow and minor children of Bernard Schultz against the Pennsylvania Railroad Company for negligently causing the death of the said Bernard Schultz. 

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company was the lessee of the Camden and Amboy Railroad Company, whose road crossed Tenth Street, in the City of Camden, N. J., at grade.

The evidence showed that the decedent, on April 20, 1875, between five and six o'clock in the afternoon, was driving in a light, covered wagon with a companion, at a rate variously

estimated at from six to twelve miles an hour, along Tenth street, and, as he approached the crossing, slackened speed, but did not entirely stop. Owing to the nature of the ground

and the neighboring buildings, the track cannot be seen for more than a few yards by persons approaching it in the direction taken by the decedent. Plaintiffs' witnesses testified

that no sign of warning was placed over the highway at this crossing, nor did the engineer blow a steam whistle before reaching the crossing, as required by the law of New Jersey

(Nixon's Digest, tit. "Railroads"), and there was evidence that the train was travelling at the rate of about twenty-five miles an hour. On the trial, before Elcock, J., the defendant's counsel moved for a non-suit on the ground that the decedent had not stopped to look and listen before attempting to cross the track ; the motion was granted, and the plaintiffs took this writ of error,assigning for error the entry of judgment of nonsuit.

Wm. H. Browne, for plaintiffs in error.

If the action of the decedent were caused by the defendant's negligence, such action cannot be considered as contributing to the injury. He had a right to assume that the defendant would obey the law.

Shearman on Negligence, 37.
Johnson v. R. R. Co., 20 Sm. 366.

The rule that a person about to cross a railroad must stop, look, and listen, cannot apply to this case. The cases of Railroad Co. v. Weber (26 Sm. 168) and Railroad Co. v. Beale (23 Sm.509) have probably gone further in imputing negligence to road travelers than the Courts of any other State. In both these cases the accidents happened on a road in the open country
comparatively unfrequented and far from any town. The position we take is, that in the country the necessity of rapid railroad travel precludes all diminution of speed, and, as the number of travelers on the roads is so small, there can be but slight inconvenience incurred by their being obliged to stop.
The case is totally reversed in populous towns and cities, and the law enjoins a degree of care and watchfulness on the part of the employees of railroad companies which is never required beyond their limits. In the country the railroad is supreme; in the town its interests are subordinate to those of the general public. Hence the usual ordinances fixing the rate of speed of trains, the use of bells and other signals, and the employment of flagmen. In the country the traveler must "stop, look, and listen," because the engineer is not there expected to be looking out for him ; in the city the throng of pedestrians and occupants of vehicles have rights paramount to the railroad company, and where the latter disregards laws and ordinances and recklessly runs its trains through a populous city without the warning signals which the traveler has a right to expect and require, he cannot be held to the observance of the same rules as if he were on an unfrequented country road.

The question of negligence in such a case is for the jury, and it ought not to be ruled simply as matter of law, as was done in this case by withdrawing the question from the jury.

Penna. Railroad Co. v. Ackerman, 24 Sm. 268.
Phila. & Reading R. R. Co. v. Long, 25 Sm. 257.
Railroad Co. v. James, 1 Weekly Notes, 68.
Shearman and Redfield on Negligence, 491.
Chapman Middle, contra.

 This case is completely governed by the well known rule that the traveler must stop, look, and listen, before crossing a railroad track.

Penna. Railroad Co. v. Beale, supra.

Penna. Railroad Co. v. Weber, supra.

Central R. R. Co. of N. J. v. Feller et at., 4

Weekly Notes, 160.

February 11, 1878. The Court. This case falls within the principles ruled in Railroad Co. v. Beale (23 P. F. Smith, 509), Railroad Co. Weber (26 P. F. Smith, 168), and Central R. R.

Co. of New Jersey v. Feller (4 Weekly Notes, 160.) It is not exceptional within the principles stated in P. R. R. Co. v. Ackerman (24 P. F. Smith, 268.)



Had the deceased and his friend stopped before reaching the track, the danger would have been discovered. But they drove on without halting, and the accident resulted from this imprudence.

This was negligence, and the improper speed of the defendants' train, when entering the city of Camden, inexcusable as it was, had its counterpart in the inexcusable speed with which the

deceased entered upon the track of the railroad company. The company was saved by his concurring negligence. Nevertheless the frequent recurrence of such accidents resulting in the loss

of life loudly demands legislation at least in Pennsylvania to protect the lives of persons both in the train and on the roadway.


Judgment affirmed.

Per Curiam. Gordon, J., dissents. Sharswood,

J., absent.