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JAMA 100 Years Ago
May 13, 2009

Medicolegal

JAMA. 2009;301(18):1941. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.588

Duty When Passenger Becomes Insane on Train

The Supreme Court of Arkansas says, in Iron Mountain & Southern Railway Company vs. Woodruff, that when a passenger unattended becomes insane on a train it is the duty of the railway company to remove such passenger, where the comfort and safety of other passengers on the train require it. But in performing this duty to the other passengers the company must not neglect the duty it owes to the unfortunate insane and helpless one who is also a passenger. Here an unattended woman passenger who became insane on a train was removed from it and left in charge of the night operator at a station, whose discretion, it appeared, caused him to abandon in haste the poor unfortunate left in his care. The law, however, required that his discretion should be exercised in the direction of the woman's comfort and safety, and not in leaving her to her fate. His duty was to exercise such care as any reasonably prudent person should, under the circumstances, to protect her against harm and to provide for her comfort. If he was so alarmed that he could not do this himself, it was his duty to call to his assistance others who could. He wholly failed to discharge this duty, and for any injury that resulted to the woman from this cause the company was liable.

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