Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Beazley

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtSHACKLEFORD, C.J.
Citation45 So. 761,54 Fla. 311
Decision Date17 December 1907
PartiesATLANTIC COAST LINE R. CO. v. BEAZLEY.

45 So. 761

54 Fla. 311

ATLANTIC COAST LINE R. CO.
v.
BEAZLEY.

Florida Supreme Court

December 17, 1907


In Banc. Error to Circuit Court, Jefferson County; John W. Malone, Judge.

Action by Robert Beazley against the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company. Judgment for plaintiff. Defendant brings error. Affirmed.

Taylor and Parkhill, JJ., dissenting.

Assumption of risk is a matter of defense which must be pleaded by defendant.

Syllabus by the Court

SYLLABUS

Where an assignment of error is predicated upon the overruling of a demurrer to the declaration, the plaintiff in error will be confined to the grounds stated in the demurrer and argued in the appellate court, and such grounds as are not argued will be treated as abandoned.

A demurrer cannot be addressed to fragmentary parts of a pleading, or to certain portions of the counts in a declaration; and where a demurrer is interposed to the declaration, 'and each of the four counts thereof,' in passing thereon, the entire declaration must be considered, and if it is found to contain one good count the demurrer should be overruled.

In adopting a statute from another state, any known and settled construction placed thereon by the courts of last resort of such state is likewise adopted, in so far as that construction is not inharmonious with the spirit and policy of our own general legislation upon the same subject.

Sections 3148, 3149, and 3150 of the General Statutes of 1906 were originally adopted here from the Code of the state of Georgia, with the exception of the concluding words of section 3150: 'No contract which restricts such liability shall be legal or binding'--which words were added by the Legislature of the state of Florida. Therefore the known and settled constructions placed upon such sections, with the exception noted, by the Supreme Court of the state of Georgia, prior to our adoption of such sections, must be held to have been likewise adopted.

Section 3150 of the General Statutes of 1906 limits the rule that an employé cannot recover for an injury occasioned by the negligence of a fellow servant to cases where the person injured is guilty of contributory negligence; and the word 'employé,' as used in that relation, means such an employé as would be a fellow servant under the rule above mentioned.

The conductor in charge of a railroad train is not a fellow servant with brakemen and flagmen employed on such train, but as to them occupies the position or relation of 'vice principal,' standing in the place of and representing the railroad corporation; and it is the duty of such brakemen and flagmen to obey all reasonable rules and orders given them by such conductor about the business of their employment.

A flagman or other employé of a railroad company would not be warranted or justified in obeying an order of the conductor in charge of a train commanding him to go into a place or position of extra hazard, unusual danger, or great peril, which would be readily apparent, or to assume a rash or dangerous risk, that would be patent to any reasonably cautious or prudent man and repugnant to good, judgment and common sense; and an employé who obeyed such an order as above indicated would do so at his own risk and peril.

In actions where negligence is the basis of recovery, it is not necessary for the declaration to set out the facts constituting the negligence; but an allegation of sufficient acts causing injury, coupled with an allegation that they were negligently done, will be sufficient.

In an action where negligence is the basis of recovery, and the first three counts of the declaration allege that the injury to the plaintiff was occasioned by the fact that the conductor of defendant's train 'negligently and carelessly left said switch open,' etc., and the fourth count alleges 'that the defendant, regardless of its duty in this respect, negligently and carelessly left said switch and track in an unsafe and dangerous condition, whereby,' etc., and all four counts allege that plaintiff was without negligence on his part, it is sufficient to withstand an attack by a demurrer addressed to such grounds.

In an action where negligence is the basis of recovery, a declaration which alleges in substance that plaintiff, within the scope of his employment, or in the ordinary discharge of his duties, as a flagman or brakeman of defendant's train, was ordered and required by the conductor in charge thereof to station himself on the top of the car or cab for the purpose of giving signals to the engineer, which order plaintiff obeyed, and while engaged in so doing was injured by the negligence of defendant, is not demurrable on the ground that the allegations of the declaration show that plaintiff voluntarily exposed himself to a known and obvious danger, which was impending at the time he obeyed such order, or that he was guilty of such negligence in so doing as to preclude his recovery of damages for injuries sustained by him. It is not apparent as a matter of law from such allegations, nor could it be judicially declared, that it is necessarily hazardous or dangerous for a flagman or brakeman in the employ of a railroad company to obey such an order, so as to make him guilty of negligence in so doing.

There is no absolute rule, applicable to all actions where negligence is the basis of recovery, by which to determine the question of the liability of the master to the servant, when the servant is injured in the performance of a duty which he is ordered or required by the master or his representative to perform; but the question of liability will depend upon the circumstances of each case.

An employé of a railroad company, acting in the strict line of his duty, may properly do that which, in a stranger, would clearly be negligent, but which may not estop the employé from recovery against such company.

In an action at law, wherein a demurrer is interposed to replications to a plea, all previous pleadings are thereby opened up, and judgment should be rendered thereon against the party who committed the first serious error; and, if the plea should be held to be bad, judgment on the demurrer is properly rendered against the defendant.

'Public policy' is variable. The very reverse of that which is the policy of the public at one time may become public policy at another; hence no fixed rules can be given by which to determine what is public policy. A contract is not void, as against public policy, unless it is injurious to the interests of the public, or contravenes some established interest of society. It is the province of a court to expound the law only, and not to speculate upon what is the best, in its opinion, for the advantage of the community. Hence the public policy of a state or nation should be determined by its Constitution, laws, and judicial decisions, and not by the varying opinions of laymen, lawyers, or judges as to the demands of the interests of the public. Judicial tribunals should hold themselves bound to the observance of rules of extreme caution when called upon to declare a transaction void on the grounds of public policy, and prejudice to the public interest must clearly appear before a court would be warranted in pronouncing the transaction void on this account.

A contract between an employé of a railroad company and such company, by the terms of which such employé, when physically injured, whether as a result of his own negligence or not, or when sick, is to receive pecuniary and other valuable benefits, and which stipulates that the voluntary acceptance by such employé of such benefits in case of injury to him is to operate as a release of the railroad company from all liability on account of such injury, such contracts being popularly or generally known as 'relief and hospital department contracts' is not void as being opposed and contrary to public policy.

All parties litigant, who are sui juris, whether railroad corporations or their employés, in the eyes of the law, before the court, stand upon an equal footing, entitled to equal rights and protection, and none to special privileges. All parties are free to make whatever contracts they please, so long as no fraud or deception is practiced, and the contract is legal in all respects.

While it may be conceded that, generally speaking, among the inalienable rights of the citizen is that of contract, yet such liberty is not absolute and universal. It is within the undoubted power of government to restrain some individuals from all contracts, as well as all individuals from some contracts. The Legislature undoubtedly had the power to enact section 3150 of the General Statutes of 1906, relating to the liability of railroad companies for injuries to employés, and to provide, as was done therein, that 'no contract which restricts such liability shall be legal or binding,' and such section is constitutional.

In the absence of the charter of a railroad company, a foreign corporation, from the record, and of any information therein as to what powers were conferred upon it by such charter, we cannot undertake to say whether the formation by such railroad company of a 'relief and hospital department,' and guaranteeing the payment of its obligations, was or was not ultra vires.

Any pleading, whether at law or in equity, is to be most strictly construed against the pleader thereof; and this principle applies with especial force to a plea which is in the nature of a confession and aboidance; and, where such a plea has on the face of it two intendments, it must be construed most strongly against the party who pleads it.

In an action by an employé against a railroad company, seeking to recover damages for personal injuries alleged to have been occasioned by or through the negligence of the defendant, where a plea is interposed attempting to set up as a defense and a bar to the action a contract and release executed by the...

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117 practice notes
  • Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. v. Delta & Pine Land Co., 30445
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • October 9, 1933
    ...187 U.S. 644; Couch v. Hutchinson et al., 57 So. 75; Georgia Fruit Exchange v. Turnipseed, 62 So. 542; Atlantic Railroad Co. v. Beazley, 45 So. 761; Union Central Life Ins. Co. v. Spinks, 83 S.W. 615, 119 Ky. 261, 69 L. R. A. 264; 6 Words & Phrases (1st series) 5814; 4 Words & Phras......
  • City of Hollywood v. Bair
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • October 31, 1938
    ...43 So. 318, and authorities therein cited; Davis v. State, 54 Fla. [34], 44 So. 757; Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Beazley, 54 Fla. [311], 45 So. 761; Cross v. Aby [55 Fla. 311] , 45 So. 820, decided here at this term. It is also settled law here that where an instruction, as far as it goes......
  • White v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 21, 1910
    ...43 S.E. 280, that 'courts of last resort are human beings,' which we quoted with approval in Atlantic Coast Line R. R. Co. v. Beazley, 54 Fla. 311, text 391, 45 So. 761, text 787. I also fully approve of what is said by this learned jurist as to the duties devolving upon members of appellat......
  • State Ex Rel. Fulton v. Ives
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 16, 1936
    ...212, Ann.Cas.1914B, 71; Selover, Bates & Co. v. Walsh, 226 U.S. 112, 33 S.Ct. 69, 57 L.Ed. 146; Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Beazley, 54 Fla. 311, 45 So. 761; Twin City Pipe Line Co. v. Harding Glass Co., 283 U.S. 353, 51 S.Ct. 476, 75 L.Ed. 1112, 83 A.L.R. 1168; Scotch Mfg. Co. v. Car......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
117 cases
  • Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. v. Delta & Pine Land Co., 30445
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • October 9, 1933
    ...187 U.S. 644; Couch v. Hutchinson et al., 57 So. 75; Georgia Fruit Exchange v. Turnipseed, 62 So. 542; Atlantic Railroad Co. v. Beazley, 45 So. 761; Union Central Life Ins. Co. v. Spinks, 83 S.W. 615, 119 Ky. 261, 69 L. R. A. 264; 6 Words & Phrases (1st series) 5814; 4 Words & Phrases (2d s......
  • City of Hollywood v. Bair
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • October 31, 1938
    ...43 So. 318, and authorities therein cited; Davis v. State, 54 Fla. [34], 44 So. 757; Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Beazley, 54 Fla. [311], 45 So. 761; Cross v. Aby [55 Fla. 311] , 45 So. 820, decided here at this term. It is also settled law here that where an instruction, as far as it goes......
  • White v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 21, 1910
    ...43 S.E. 280, that 'courts of last resort are human beings,' which we quoted with approval in Atlantic Coast Line R. R. Co. v. Beazley, 54 Fla. 311, text 391, 45 So. 761, text 787. I also fully approve of what is said by this learned jurist as to the duties devolving upon members of appellat......
  • State Ex Rel. Fulton v. Ives
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 16, 1936
    ...212, Ann.Cas.1914B, 71; Selover, Bates & Co. v. Walsh, 226 U.S. 112, 33 S.Ct. 69, 57 L.Ed. 146; Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Beazley, 54 Fla. 311, 45 So. 761; Twin City Pipe Line Co. v. Harding Glass Co., 283 U.S. 353, 51 S.Ct. 476, 75 L.Ed. 1112, 83 A.L.R. 1168; Scotch Mfg. Co. v. Carr, 5......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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