Logourl black
From our private database of 12,700+ case briefs...

Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins

United States Supreme Court
304 U.S. 64 (1938)

Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins

Facts

While walking along the railroad tracks, Harry Tompkins (plaintiff), a citizen of Pennsylvania, was injured by a train owned by Erie Railroad Co. (Erie) (defendant). Tompkins sued Erie, a New York company, for negligence in New York federal court. At trial, Erie argued that Tompkins was a trespasser and, under Pennsylvania state law, the company was not liable unless its conduct was wantonly negligent. Tompkins argued that federal general law should apply and determine Erie’s duty and liability. The trial judge applied the rule from Swift v. Tyson, 41 U.S. (16 Pet.) 1 (1842), holding that federal courts were only bound to apply state statutory and customary law, not state common law. Thus, the trial court applied the general law. Because the majority rule was that railroad company owed a duty of ordinary care to travelers like Tompkins, the district court granted recovery for Tompkins. The circuit court affirmed judgment for Tompkins claiming that federal courts could use their discretion on matters of general law. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

The rule of law is the black letter law upon which the court rested its decision. To access this section, start your 7-day free trial of Quimbee for Law Students.

Issue

The issue section includes the dispositive legal issue in the case phrased as a question. To access this section, start your 7-day free trial of Quimbee for Law Students.

Holding and Reasoning (Brandeis, J.)

The holding and reasoning section includes:

  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

To access this section, start your 7-day free trial of Quimbee for Law Students.

Concurrence (Reed, J.)

The concurrence section is for members only and includes a summary of the concurring judge or justice’s opinion. To access this section, start your 7-day free trial of Quimbee for Law Students.

Dissent (Butler, J.)

The dissent section is for members only and includes a summary of the dissenting judge or justice’s opinion. To access this section, start your 7-day free trial of Quimbee for Law Students.

What to do next…

  1. Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.

    You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.

  2. Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.

    Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.

Here's why 119,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:

  • Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 12,700 briefs, keyed to 172 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
  • The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
  • Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
  • Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.