Stewart (plaintiff) was an employee of the East Ohio Gas Company. He was sitting in the passenger seat of a truck driven by one of his fellow employees. The truck approached a railroad crossing owned by Erie Railroad Co. (Erie) (defendant). Erie typically employed a watchman at this crossing to warn of oncoming trains, but the watchman was temporarily away from his post. As such, he did not warn of an approaching train operated by Erie until it was too late. The train struck the truck in which Stewart was riding, and Stewart suffered injuries. Stewart brought suit against Erie for negligence, and the district court granted judgment for Stewart. Erie appealed.