Railroad Held Liable
A Verdict of $7,000 In The Paul Wolcott Case
The New York and Long Branch Railroad Company Alone Held Responsible For the Accident-The Case to be Appealed
The suit brought by Bloomfield Wolcott of Eatontown, administrator of the estate of Paul Wolcott, against the New York and Long Branch railroad, the Pennsylvania railroad, the Central railroad and the New Jersey Southern railroad, which began before Judge Fort at Freehold on Tuesday of last week, was concluded Thursday night. The case was given to the jury on Friday morning, and after being out about three hours the jury returned a verdict of $7,000 in favor of the plaintiff and against the New York and Long Branch railroad.
Paul Wolcott, son of Bloomfield Wolcott, was killed at the Chestnut street crossing at Red Bank on December 7th, 1900. He and his wife were on their way to T. E. Griggs's machine shop on Chestnut street. They came to Red Bank by way of Shrewsbury avenue to Chestnut street, and turned down Chestnut street to Mr. Griggs's place. Before reaching the machine shop they had to cross the tracks of the New York and Long Branch railroad and of the Southern railroad. As they were upon the tracks of the New York and Long Branch railroad their wagon was struck by a Pennsylvania engine. The horse was killed instantly and Mr. Wolcott received injuries from which he died a few hours later at the Long Branch hospital. Mrs. Wolcott escaped injury. Suit against the four railroads was brought for $25,000 damages.
The Pennsylvania railroad company was made a defendant because it was an engine of the company that struck the rig; the New York and Long Branch railroad was made a defendant because it owns the tracks over which the Pennsylvania train was running and is responsible for the guarding of the crossing; and the Central and Southern roads were made defendants because a gondola car of the Central road that stood upon the tracks of the Southern road was alleged to have obstructed the view of the crossing.
The principal witness for the plaintiff was Mrs. Wolcott, widow of Paul Wolcott. She said that it was dark when she and her husband reached Red Bank on the night of the accident. Her husband, she said was unacquainted with the neighborhood and had never driven over the crossing before. The horse was on a trot as they approached the crossing. Mrs. Wolcott, according to her testimony, neither saw a light waved nor heard a whistle or bell, but she heard someone call out a warning as the engine was upon them. It was claimed on the part of the plaintiff that trees, cars and even the flaghouse obstructed the view of the crossing.
William McCue, the flagman at the crossing, swore that he stood in the middle of the roadway on the night of the accident, waving his lantern. He said that he saw the rig as it approached the crossing and that besides waving the lantern he called out to the driver to stop. His warnings, he said, went unheeded and Mr. Wolcott proceeded to cross the tracks at a rapid pace. Mr. Griggs, the machinist, swore that he stood in front of his place of business, a few yards from the track, and watched the Wolcott rig approaching. He saw the flagman wave his lantern and heard him shout, but he did not hear an engine whistle or bell.
At the conclusion of the plaintiff's case Judge Fort granted a non-suit as to the Southern railroad, but refused non-suits as to the other railroads. At the end of the defendant's case, however, he directed the jury to return a verdict in favor of the Central railroad but left it to the jury to decide as to the responsibility of the New York and Long Branch railroad and the Pennsylvania railroad. Allen Strong summed up the case for the Pennsylvania railroad, R. B. Lindabury summed up for the New York and Long Branch railroad and Edmund Wilson summed up for the plaintiff. Charles H. Ivins represented the Central and Southern railroads. The judge's charge was generally considered as favorable to the railroads.
The New York and Long Branch railroad will appeal the case. The judgment against the railroad will not be entered up until the February term of the supreme court. A writ of error will then be applied for, but the case cannot be argued until the June term of the court of errors and appeals. The decision of the court of errors and appeals will probably be announced next November.
Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, Jan 29, 1902