Abston v. Waldon Academy

CourtTennessee Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBeard
Citation102 S.W. 351
Decision Date13 May 1907
PartiesABSTON v. WALDON ACADEMY.
102 S.W. 351
ABSTON
v.
WALDON ACADEMY.
Supreme Court of Tennessee.
May 13, 1907.

Page 352

Appeal from Circuit Court, Davidson County; John W. Childress, Judge.

Action by Minnie Abston, by her next friend, against the Waldon Academy. From a judgment for defendant, plaintiff appeals. Affirmed.

J. B. Daniels and Paul Hoggins, for appellant. James Trimble and J. C. Bradford, for appellee.

BEARD, C. J.


The defendant in error is a corporation chartered in 1866 by the Legislature of Tennessee under the name and style of the "Central Tennessee Methodist Episcopal College," which original name was by subsequent enactment changed to that of "Waldon Academy." This institution was incorporated for purely education purposes in the interest of the negro race, then but recently emancipated. Being an eleemosynary corporation, it issued no stock, and it has paid no dividends. Its foundations were laid in charitable donations, and during its entire history, according to the averments of the special plea in this cause, confessed by demurrer to be true, it has "been operated and conducted from bequests," and "its grounds, buildings, and trust funds" have come from such bequests; the whole, "according to the expressed will of the donors," "to be held in trust as a public charity."

Minnie Abston, for whose use this suit was brought, was a pupil of this institution, and on the night of the 18th of December, 1903, she occupied a room in a three-story building erected by the corporation on the Academy grounds to furnish sleeping apartments for the young girls in attendance upon the school, when it took fire, and in an attempt to escape from the flames she leaped from a window on the third floor and was seriously injured. This action was brought to recover damages for the injuries thus sustained, on the ground that an ordinance of the city of Nashville, within whose limits this building stood, required the erection of "suitable and sufficient fire escapes" on a building of the character of the one in question, and that the same duty was imposed by chapter 178 of the Acts of the Legislative Session of 1899, and by reason of the failure of the corporation to erect fire escapes it was impossible for plaintiff in error to escape death, save as she did in the manner above indicated. The question is: Can such an action be maintained where, if so, the property placed by benevolent parties under the control of this corporation for what is well settled in this state to be a charitable use (Franklin v. Armfield, 2 Sneed, 305) must be appropriated to its satisfaction?

We are satisfied that neither on principle nor on authority can this be done. The leading case on this subject is that of Feoffees of Heriot's Hospital v. Ross (House of Lords Cases) 12 Clark & Finnelly, 507. The facts there were that in 1623 one George Heriot by will left to the municipal authorities of the city of Edinburgh a fund to be used by them in the purchase of lands, upon which was to be erected a hospital within the limits of that city, to be maintained in perpetuity, for the "relief, bringing up, and education of such poor, fatherless boys, freemen's sons, of the town," as the means thus given would provide for. An applicant, coming within the description of those thus named by the donor, was refused by the authorities upon whom was devolved the corporate duty of admitting applicants to the hospital, whereupon he brought his suit to recover damages for his assumed wrongful rejection. From the judgment of the Scotch court, awarding damages payable out of the trust funds, the case was carried by writ of error to the House of Lords of England. It was there held that a charitable institution, such as was the one in question, was exempt from damages for negligence of its trustees. In the course of his opinion Lord Cottenham used this language: "It would be in vain to search the records of this country for any judgment of a court directing trust funds to be applied to any purpose different from that for which they were originally given. * * * It is obvious that it would be a direct violation in all cases of the purposes of a trust if this could be done, for there is not any person who ever created a trust that provided for the payment of damages out of it to be recovered from those that had the management of the fund. No such provision has been made here. There is a trust, and there are persons intended to manage it for the benefit of those who are the subjects of the charity. To give damages out of a trust fund would not be to apply it to those subjects which the author of the fund had in view, but would be to divert it to a completely different purpose."

Lord Brougham, in the course of his opinion in this case, said: "The charge is that the governors of the hospital had illegally and properly done the act in question, and because the trustee had violated the statute — therefore what? Not that they themselves shall pay the damages, but that the trust fund which they administer shall be made answerable for their misconduct. The finding on this point is wrong, and the decree of the court must be reversed." To like effect is the opinion of Lord Campbell.

It is said, however, by the counsel representing the plaintiff below in this cause, that this case was overruled by the later case of Merse Dock Trustees v. Gibbs, 11 House of Lords, 686. Nowhere in the opinion of Mr. Justice Blackburn, or those of the Lord Chancellor and Lord Westbury, all of which recommended an affirmance of the judgment in the court below against the trustees, is

Page 353

the earlier case referred to. This omission, we think, can be accounted for only on the ground that the two cases were regarded as essentially dissimilar, and that the principle controlling in the one was not to be applied in the other.

Mr. Justice Blackburn, in his opinion, traces the legislative history of the Merse Docks. He said that "the members of the town council of Liverpool, and their successors, were formed into a corporation by the style of the `Trustees of the Liverpool Docks.' * * * The powers of this corporation were to be exercised by a committee * * * subject to these provisions. We may say that the effect of the legislation was that the dock trustees were empowered to make and maintain docks and warehouses, which were to be...

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43 practice notes
  • President and Dir. of Georgetown College v. Hughes, No. 7761.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 30, 1942
    ...1087, 136 Am.St.Rep. 879; Adams v. University Hospital, 1907, 122 Mo.App. 675, 99 S.W. 453; Abston v. Waldon Academy, 1907, 118 Tenn. 24, 102 S.W. 351, 11 L.R.A.,N.S., 1179. 59 Southern Methodist Hospital and Sanatorium v. Wilson, 1935, 45 Ariz. 507, 46 P.2d 118; Hearns v. Waterbury Hospita......
  • Roosen v. Peter Bent Brigham Hosp.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • February 28, 1920
    ...W. 42,25 L. R. A. 602, 45 Am. St. Rep. 427;Perry v. House of Refuge, 63 Md. 20, 52 Am. Rep. 495;Abston v. Waldon Academy, 118 Tenn. 24, 102 S. W. 351,11 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1179. The same result is reached in Maia v. Eastern State Hospital, 97 Va. 507, 34 S. E. 617,47 L. R. A. 577, though upon......
  • Andrews v. Young Men's Christian Ass'n of Des Moines, No. 44403.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 15, 1939
    ...75 A. 1087, 136 Am.St.Rep. 879;Lindler v. Columbia Hosp., 98 S.C. 25, 81 S.E. 512; [284 N.W. 193]Abston v. Waldon Academy, 118 Tenn. 24, 102 S.W. 351, 11 L.R.A.,N.S., 1179; Steele v. St. Josephs Hosp., Tex.Civ.App., 60 S.W.2d 1083;Weston's Adm'x v. Hospital of St. Vincent, 131 Va. 587, 107 ......
  • Sessions v. Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital Ass'n, 5907
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 25, 1938
    ...South Carolina: Vermillion v. Woman's College of Due West, 104 S.C. 197, 88 S.E. 649; Tennessee: Abston v. Waldon Academy, 118 Tenn. 24, 102 S.W. 351, 11 L. R. A., N. S., 1179; Lincoln Memorial University v. Sutton, 163 Tenn. 298, 43 S.W.2d 195; Washington: Wells v. Ferry-Baker Lumber Co., ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
43 cases
  • President and Dir. of Georgetown College v. Hughes, No. 7761.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 30, 1942
    ...1087, 136 Am.St.Rep. 879; Adams v. University Hospital, 1907, 122 Mo.App. 675, 99 S.W. 453; Abston v. Waldon Academy, 1907, 118 Tenn. 24, 102 S.W. 351, 11 L.R.A.,N.S., 1179. 59 Southern Methodist Hospital and Sanatorium v. Wilson, 1935, 45 Ariz. 507, 46 P.2d 118; Hearns v. Waterbury Hospita......
  • Roosen v. Peter Bent Brigham Hosp.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • February 28, 1920
    ...W. 42,25 L. R. A. 602, 45 Am. St. Rep. 427;Perry v. House of Refuge, 63 Md. 20, 52 Am. Rep. 495;Abston v. Waldon Academy, 118 Tenn. 24, 102 S. W. 351,11 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1179. The same result is reached in Maia v. Eastern State Hospital, 97 Va. 507, 34 S. E. 617,47 L. R. A. 577, though upon......
  • Andrews v. Young Men's Christian Ass'n of Des Moines, No. 44403.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 15, 1939
    ...75 A. 1087, 136 Am.St.Rep. 879;Lindler v. Columbia Hosp., 98 S.C. 25, 81 S.E. 512; [284 N.W. 193]Abston v. Waldon Academy, 118 Tenn. 24, 102 S.W. 351, 11 L.R.A.,N.S., 1179; Steele v. St. Josephs Hosp., Tex.Civ.App., 60 S.W.2d 1083;Weston's Adm'x v. Hospital of St. Vincent, 131 Va. 587, 107 ......
  • Sessions v. Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital Ass'n, 5907
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 25, 1938
    ...South Carolina: Vermillion v. Woman's College of Due West, 104 S.C. 197, 88 S.E. 649; Tennessee: Abston v. Waldon Academy, 118 Tenn. 24, 102 S.W. 351, 11 L. R. A., N. S., 1179; Lincoln Memorial University v. Sutton, 163 Tenn. 298, 43 S.W.2d 195; Washington: Wells v. Ferry-Baker Lumber Co., ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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