25 N.Y. 562, Wright v. New York Cent. R. Co.

Citation:25 N.Y. 562
Case Date:December 01, 1862
Court:New York Court of Appeals

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25 N.Y. 562




New York Court of Appeal

December 1, 1862

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Sidney T. Fairchild, for the appellant.

George F. Danforth, for the respondent.


Certain principles touching the liability of the master to the servant, for injuries sustained by the latter in the course of his employment, have, by the decisions in this state and several of the sister states, as well as in England, become so well settled that they need only to be stated. They cannot be disturbed, neither can their authority be disregarded.

1. A master is not responsible to those in his employ for injuries resulting from the negligence, carelessness or misconduct of a fellow servant engaged in the same general business. ( Farwell v. The Boston & Worcester R. R. Corp., 4 Met., 49; Brown v. Maxwell, 6 Hill, 592; Coon v. Syracuse & Utica R. R. Co., 1 Seld., 492;

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Sherman v. Rochester & Syracuse R. R. Co., 17 N.Y. 153; Russell v. Hudson R. R. Co., Id., 134; Boldt v. The N.Y. Central R. R. Co., 18 Id., 432; Hayes v. The Western R. R. Corp., 3 Cush., 270; Albro v. The Agawam Canal Co., 6 Cush., 75; Ray v. Boston and Worcester R. R. Corp., 9 Id., 112; Gillshanon v. The Stony Brook R. R. Corp., 10 Id., 228; Hutchinson v. The York, & c., Railway Co., 5 Exch. R., 343.)

2. The rule exempting the master is the same, although the grades of the servants or employers are different; and the person injured is inferior in rank and subject to the directions and general control of him by whose act the injury is caused. (Hayes v. The Western R. R. Corp., supra; Albro v. The Agawam Canal Co., supra; Wyman v. Jay, 5 Exch., 352.)

3. Neither is it necessary, in order to bring a case within the general rule of exemption, that the servants, the one that suffers and the one that causes the injury, should be at the time engaged in the same operation or particular work. It is enough that they are in the employment of the same master, engaged in the same common enterprise, both employed to perform duties and services tending to accomplish the same general purposes, as in maintaining and operating a railroad, operating a factory, working a mine, or erecting a building. (Boldt v. New York Central R. R. Co.; Coon v. Syracuse and Utica R. R. Co.; Farwell v. Boston and Worcester R. R. Corp.; Albro v. The Agawam Canal Co.; Gillshanon v. Stony Brook R. R. Corp.; Wyman v. Jay; Hutchinson v. York and Newcastle Branch Railway Co., supra.) The question is, whether they are under the same general control. ( Abraham v. Reynolds, 5 Hurl. & Norm., 142.)

4. The master is liable to his servant for any injury happening to him from the misconduct or personal negligence of the master; and this negligence may consist in the employment of unfit and incompetent servants and agents, or in the furnishing for the work to be done, or for the use of the servant, machinery or other implements and facilities improper and unsafe for the purposes to which they are to be

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applied. (Priestly v. Fowler, 3 M. & W., 1; Hayden v. Smithville Manuf'g Co., 29 Conn., 548; Roberts v. Smith, 2 Hen. & Munf., 213; Williams v. Clough, 3 Id., 257; Griffiths v. Godson, Id., 648; Wyman v. Jay, supra; Owens v. Holland, Ellis, Blackb. & Ell., 102; Keegan v. W. R. R. Corp., 4 Seld., 175; Patterson v. Wallace, 28 L. & E., 48; Marshall v. Stewart, 33 Id., 1.)

The employer does not undertake with each or any of his employees for the skill and competency of the other employees engaged in and about the same service, or for the sufficiency and safety of the materials and implements furnished for the work, or for the convenience or comfort of the laborer, since neglect and want of due care in the selection and employment of the agent or servant through whose want of skill or competency an injury is caused to a fellow servant, must be shown in order to charge the master; and if the injury arises from a defect or insufficiency in the machinery or implements furnished to the servant by the master, knowledge of the defect or insufficiency must be brought home to the master, or proof given that he was ignorant of the same, through his own negligence and want of proper care; in other words, it must be shown that he either knew or ought to have known the defects which caused the injury. Personal negligence is the gist of the action. (Hayden v. Smithville Manufacturing Co.; Roberts v. Smith; Wyman v. Jay; Keegan v. Western R. R. Corporation; Owens v. Holland, supra.) It is not enough that the foreman and general superintendent of the work is guilty of negligence, causing injury to the subordinates. (Wyman v. Jay, and other cases cited before.)

5. If the servant sustaining an injury through the unskillfulness or insufficiency in numbers or otherwise of his fellow laborers, or defects in the machinery or conveniences furnished by his employer, has the same knowledge or means of knowledge of the unskillfulness and deficiencies referred to as his employer, he cannot sustain an action for the injury, but will be held to have voluntarily assumed all the risks of the employment, incurred, as they were, by the want of skill and incompetency of those employed with him, or the defective

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machinery used in the work. (Priestly v. Fowler, 3 M. & W., 1; Hayden v. Smithville Manuf'g Co.; Griffiths v. Godwin; Williams v. Clough; Keegan v. Western R. R. Corporation; Paterson v. Wallace, supra; Skip v. Eastern Counties Railway Co., 24 L. and E., 396; S. C., 9 Exch., 223.)

6. It is not sufficient to charge the master for injuries to his servant that others of his employees were unskillful or incompetent, or the machinery, & c., unsafe and unfit for the purposes, unless the injury complained of resulted from these causes. If it was occasioned, notwithstanding such defects, by the negligence of a fellow servant, the master is not responsible. ( Hayes v. The Western R. R. Corporation, 3 Cush., 270; Skip v. Eastern Counties Railway Co., supra.)

There is nothing in any of the cases to which our attention has been called, or which have come under my observation, inconsistent with these propositions, which I think are fairly deducible from all the cases. Keegan v. Western Railroad Corporation, in this court, decides nothing but the conceded doctrine that for personal negligence of the master, which was found by the referee, in the absence of any knowledge of such negligence as well as of any negligence on the part of the injured servant, the master would be liable. The case is a very bald case of gross, even culpable negligence, as stated and found by the referee, and scarcely needed the authority of the court to determine the liability of the defendant. Principles well established and as old as the common law fixed that. Paterson v. Wallace, supra, merely decides that, in that case and under the circumstances, there was a question of negligence proper to be submitted to a jury. If it is claimed that the decision goes further...

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