‘<i>The Instrumentality of Others</i>’

R. W. Kostal

in Law and English Railway Capitalism 1825–1875

Published in print October 1997 | ISBN: 9780198265672
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682926 | DOI:
‘The Instrumentality of Others’

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In the 1840s injured railway passengers and employees alike commenced legal actions for damages. It is clear that many lawyers of the era believed that both kinds of accident victims might commence viable legal actions for damages against a railway company. By the early 1850s, however, the relative viability of the two causes of action had changed dramatically. While injured railway passengers (or their heirs) brought lawsuits against railway companies in growing numbers, injured railway workers (or their heirs) now only rarely sued employers. This turn of events was the predictable result of a series of judicial choices. Drawing on a fluid blend of pre-railway-era legal precedent and railway-era social and economic concerns, England's common law judges created a body of decisional law that was exceedingly generous to injured railway patrons, but almost intractably ungenerous to injured railway labourers. Although railway employers were maimed and killed much more frequently than railway passengers, their losses contributed few cases to the swell of personal injury litigation against railways after 1850. For the entire period 1840–75, however, the key judicial choices in the field of accident law were not disturbed.

Keywords: railway passengers; railway workers; English common law; personal injury litigation; injured workers; judicial choice; accident law

Chapter.  32531 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Law

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