Frances Silver (plaintiff) was a passenger on a New York Central Railroad (defendant) train during very cold winter weather. Silver's car was detached and siderailed, awaiting reconnection to another locomotive. While it was siderailed, the unheated car grew cold. Silver called the train's porter for help, but her call went unanswered. Silver claimed her prolonged exposure to the cold worsened her preexisting medical condition, and she sued the railroad. At trial, the judge did not allow the porter to testify that eleven other passengers made no complaint about the cold. The judge decided the action in Silver's favor, and the railroad appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, taking exception to the judge's exclusion of the porter's proffered testimony.