Catholic University Law Review


In 1919, Ms. Julia May Garret, a young Virginian woman, was brutally raped by two different men as she was walking home after the Washington Southern Railway failed to stop at her designated station. What followed was a legal battle that created precedent still discussed in American casebooks today. Although most case law recognizes that the criminal acts of third parties severs liability because such conduct is considered unforeseeable, Hines v. Garrett held that the harm Ms. Garrett suffered was within the risk created by the railroad’s negligence, and as a common carrier, the railroad owed her a duty to protect against that risk if she did not voluntarily disembark.

This article dives into the historical backdrop of this pivotal Virginian case by providing details on Ms. Garrett’s daily commute, the assaults, the police investigation, the lawsuit, both the trial and appeal, and the Virginia Supreme Court’s ultimate decision. Further, this article provides insight into the aftermath of this case and how the parties’ lives proceeded at its conclusion.

Julia May Garrett's story, it turns out, is more than a story of proximate cause. It is in many ways a story about Virginia.