The Ballad of Harry James Tompkins

76 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2018 Last revised: 12 May 2019

See all articles by Brian L. Frye

Brian L. Frye

University of Kentucky - College of Law

Date Written: July 16, 2018

Abstract

On July 27, 1934, Harry James Tompkins lost his arm, supposedly when an unsecured refrigerator car door on a train operated by the Erie Railroad Company hit him in the head. Tompkins won in a $30,000 judgment in federal court, but in Erie v. Tompkins (1938), the United States Supreme Court famously reversed, holding that federal courts sitting in diversity must apply state substantive law, not federal "general common law." While many scholars have studied Erie v. Tompkins, few have studied the facts of the case, and none have questioned Tompkins's account. This article argues that Tompkins and his witnesses were not telling the truth.

Keywords: Civil Procedure, Erie v. Tompkins, Legal History, Choice of Law

Suggested Citation

Frye, Brian L., The Ballad of Harry James Tompkins (July 16, 2018). 52 Akron L. Rev. 355 (2019), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3214969

Brian L. Frye (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky - College of Law ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.uky.edu/directory/brian-l-frye

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