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What was the rule of decision as to which a conflict existed?
The rule of decision as to which a conflict existed was whether the federal
court was free to disregard the alleged rule of the Pennsylvania common law.
The Railroad argued that Pennsylvania's highest court had settled the issue of
Tompkins' status and the duty owed him by the train company. Tompkins argued
that the highest court had not established that rule, and that in the absence
of any statute regulating the issue, the federal government was free to decide
the railroad's duty and liability as a matter of general law. Rather than
investigating whether Pennsylvania had settled the issue, the federal court
decided the case using its own standards under general law.