Barfoot v. White Star Line

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Writing for the CourtOSTRANDER
Citation136 N.W. 437,170 Mich. 349
Decision Date31 May 1912
PartiesBARFOOT v. WHITE STAR LINE.

170 Mich. 349
136 N.W. 437

BARFOOT
v.
WHITE STAR LINE.

Supreme Court of Michigan.

May 31, 1912.


Error to Circuit Court, Wayne County; George P. Codd, Judge.

Action by Clarence Barfoot against the White Star Line. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendant brings error. Affirmed.

Plaintiff stepped into the shaft of a freight elevator and was injured. He sued the owner of the building, basing his right to recover upon the fact that the opening to the shaft was not provided with an automatic gate or door and upon the duty to provide such a gate or door alleged to rest upon the owner by reason of the provisions of section 12 of Act No. 285 of the Public Acts of 1909. The building was not occupied by the alleged owner, but by tenants, one of which, a manufacturing concern, occupied the third floor. The plaintiff was not an employé of the owner, or of the lessee, but was the employé of a third person and was engaged in installing for the use of the lessee of the third floor an electric motor. The statute relied upon is entitled: ‘An act to provide for the creation of a department of labor; to prescribe its powers and duties; to regulate the employment of labor; to make an appropriation for the maintenance of such department, and to prescribe penalties for the violation of this act.’ Section 12 of the act reads: ‘It shall be the duty of the owner, agent or lessee of any manufacturing establishment where hoisting shafts or well-holes are used, to cause the same to be properly inclosed and secured. It shall be the duty of the owner, agent or lessee to provide or cause to be provided at all elevator openings in any manufacturing establishment, workshop, hotel or store, proper trap or automatic doors or automatic gates so constructed as to open and close by the action of elevators either ascending or descending. The deputy factory inspector shall inspect the cables, gearing or other apparatus of elevators in manufacturing establishments, workshops, hotels and stores at least once in each year, and more frequently if necessary, and require that the same be kept in a safe condition, and shall have power to condemn any elevator if in his opinion the same be unsafe, and stop the operation of such elevator until the same be put in a safe condition.’ For a violation of or failure to comply with any of the provisions of the act a penalty of not less than $10 nor more than $100, or imprisonment for not less than 10 nor more than 90 days, or both a fine and imprisonment, may be imposed. The statute gives no private right of action for any violation of its provisions.

Plaintiff had been working in the building four or five days. His duties required him to work a portion of the time in the elevator shaft which was inclosed and upon the sides of which wires were trained. He had used the elevator, operating it himself up and down the shaft, a dozen or more times. He knew that no automatic gate or door to the shaft had been provided, that the gate was elevated by hand and pulled down by hand, and that to keep the gate from descending by its own weight employés about the place used a plug or stop.

Plaintiff described how he came to be injured as follows: ‘Just as I was preparing to leave I heard that the Edison man was there. I asked where he was. He had gone down to see the meter. So the only way I knew to get to where the meter was was to use the elevator, and I went towards the elevator shaft, so I got up there and for three or four days previous they had been carrying down white powder on the elevator. It made the elevator floor very light. At that time I suppose-- It was the light coming up the elevator shaft and it made this spot a little lighter than the surrounding floor. I thought it was the floor of the elevator, because anybody working around elevators knows that they do not always stop right at the floor; they are often a foot or a foot and a half above or below. I supposed that the elevator was there and was going up to it. I had never before been around an elevator shaft where the gates were not automatic; where they would not come down of their own accord if the elevator left the floor. I stepped on what I supposed was the floor of the elevator. It was dark. It was not real dark, but it was not light. Well, that is the last I remember. * * * You have not worked around in elevators before this which were not equipped with automatic gates? A. No. Q. Was this an automatic gate? A. No, sir. Q. Had you ever-- About how many times had you gone up and down that elevator shaft in that elevator? A. Why possibly a dozen times. Q. In the course of what? A. In the course of doing the wiring at the shaft. Q. Did you ever approach that elevator with the gate up when the platform was not there? A. No, sir. Q. Tell the jury what it was that as you approached the shaft that made you think the elevator was there. A. The gate being up; because I had never seen the elevator before that the gates were not down when the elevator went away. Q. What was the condition of lights around that shaft? A. Why it was quite dark. It was not dark, but it was dusk. There was not much light in there.’ On cross-examination he testified that when he used the elevator he pulled out the stop or plug and pulled the gate down, never took the elevator away from the floor when the gate was not down, and had never seen the elevator away from the floor when the gate was not down. Q. Then you knew this morning when you went over towards the shaft that the gate was not an automatice gate? A. Yes. Q. You knew if it was pulled up it would not close? A. Yes. Q. You looked to see as you went over towards the elevator whether the platform was there? A. Yes. Q. You took particular pains to see whether the platform was there? A. I looked to see whether it was even with the floor or a foot below or a foot above. It was dark. Q. It appeared as though it was there? A. Yes. * * * Q. There was not light enough to let you see whether or not the elevator was there? A. No, sir; not at that time. * * * Q. You remember going towards the elevator? A. Yes. Q. Was the gate up? A. Yes. Q. You took particular pains to see whether the platform was there? A. Yes. Q. Before you stepped in? A. Yes. Q. That you remember? A. Yes. Q. Was there any artificial light there at that time? A. There was one lamp somewhere near but it would not work, as I recollect it it had no globe on or had burned out. Q. It was not burning on that occasion? A. no. Q. If it had been burning you would have been assisted in ascertaining whether the elevator was there? A. It was not close to the elevator. Q. Where was it? A. In front of the elevator shaft, five or six feet to one side. Q. Was there any other lights there or if it had been burning would it have given you a view of the elevator? A. No, sir; not as I see. * * * Q. Could any light have been put there that would have given you any assistance in ascertaining whether or not the elevator was there? A. Yes. Q. There was no such light there? A. No, sir; there was not. Q. Of course if you had had sufficient light to see that the elevator was not there you would not have stepped in? A. Decidedly not.'

Testimony to prove that defendant was owner of the premises consisted of a written lease of the third floor of the building dated January 22, 1909, made by defendant to the Colonial Manufacturing Company which was in possession when plaintiff was injured; proof of the payment and receipt of rent accordingly; a letter dated January 4, 1909, written by defendant to the Colonial Manufacturing Company confirming oral arrangements for the lease and containing this sentence: ‘The White Star Line will provide automatic gates to elevator and paint the elevator with white water paint.’ The term created by the lease was three years from January 1, 1909. The same relation had existed between the parties thereto prior to January 1, 1909. The lessor agreed to heat the third floor, but electric power, elevator power, and janitor service were to be provided by the lessee. A representative of the lessee testified: ‘This elevator was used by our company and it was already installed in the building when we took possession of this floor. Our landlord all of the time that we occupied the premises was the White Star Line. The White Star Line repaired the elevator. The White Star Line paid for the power. Our company never made any repairs to the elevator or the shaft. These were all made by the owner of the building. About the time of the execution of the lease we had some correspondence with the White Star Line relating to the elevator. We had been asking to have the shaft of the elevator painted white and for an automatic gate to be installed. stalled. This was by correspondence and also orally.’

At the close of plaintiff's case defendant moved for a directed verdict and the motion was renewed when the taking of testimony was concluded. Error is assigned upon refusals to direct a verdict as requested. Defendant preferred certain requests to charge, and after the verdict moved for a new trial and the motion was denied. Error is assigned upon the rulings. In this court the errors discussed in the brief for appellant are based upon the refusal of the court to direct a verdict in its favor because (1) the want of a proper light at or near the elevator was the proximate cause of the injury; (2) plaintiff was guilty of negligence contributing to his injury; (3) it was not proven that defendant was an...

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12 practice notes
  • Francis v. Terminal Railroad Assn., No. 39573.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 8, 1946
    ...the affirmative. Johannes v. Edward G. Becht Laundry Co., 274 S.W. 377; Martin v. Kansas City, 224 S.W. 141; Barfoot v. White Star Line, 170 Mich. 349, 136 N.W. 437. (22) The verdict is so grossly excessive as to show conclusively that it was the result of prejudice against Roberts P. Elam ......
  • Finnegan v. Royal Realty Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 12, 1950
    ...102 N.E. 113, 103 N.E. 117; Fowler Packing Co. v. Enzenperger, 77 Kan. 406, 94 P. 995, 15 L.R.A., N.S., 784; Barfoot v. White Star Line, 170 Mich. 349, 136 N.W. 437; Pauley v. Steam-Gauge & Lantern Co., 131 N.Y. 90, 29 N.E. 999, 15 L.R.A. The authorities hold that the landlord's duty to mak......
  • Cluck v. Abe, No. 27667.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 24, 1931
    ...and it was discretionary with the court to exclude it unless this discretion was abused. 22 C.J. 789; Barefoot v. White Street Line, 170 Mich. 349, 136 N.W. 437; Thompson v. Life Ins. Co. (Me.), 95 Atl. 231; Graves v. State, 58 Tex. Crim. App. 42. (3) Where the evidence is conflicting, it i......
  • Grubaugh v. Simon J. Murphy Co., No. 26.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • April 10, 1920
    ...of Three Rivers, 96 Mich. 625, 55 N. W. 1003;Langworthy v. Township of Green, 95 Mich. 93, 54 N. W. 697;Barfoot v. White Star Line, 170 Mich. 349, 136 N. W. 437. If the sense of sight may properly be used in determining the extent of an injury, it is difficult to see why the sense of touch ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • Francis v. Terminal Railroad Assn., No. 39573.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 8, 1946
    ...the affirmative. Johannes v. Edward G. Becht Laundry Co., 274 S.W. 377; Martin v. Kansas City, 224 S.W. 141; Barfoot v. White Star Line, 170 Mich. 349, 136 N.W. 437. (22) The verdict is so grossly excessive as to show conclusively that it was the result of prejudice against Roberts P. Elam ......
  • Finnegan v. Royal Realty Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 12, 1950
    ...102 N.E. 113, 103 N.E. 117; Fowler Packing Co. v. Enzenperger, 77 Kan. 406, 94 P. 995, 15 L.R.A., N.S., 784; Barfoot v. White Star Line, 170 Mich. 349, 136 N.W. 437; Pauley v. Steam-Gauge & Lantern Co., 131 N.Y. 90, 29 N.E. 999, 15 L.R.A. The authorities hold that the landlord's duty to mak......
  • Cluck v. Abe, No. 27667.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 24, 1931
    ...and it was discretionary with the court to exclude it unless this discretion was abused. 22 C.J. 789; Barefoot v. White Street Line, 170 Mich. 349, 136 N.W. 437; Thompson v. Life Ins. Co. (Me.), 95 Atl. 231; Graves v. State, 58 Tex. Crim. App. 42. (3) Where the evidence is conflicting, it i......
  • Grubaugh v. Simon J. Murphy Co., No. 26.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • April 10, 1920
    ...of Three Rivers, 96 Mich. 625, 55 N. W. 1003;Langworthy v. Township of Green, 95 Mich. 93, 54 N. W. 697;Barfoot v. White Star Line, 170 Mich. 349, 136 N. W. 437. If the sense of sight may properly be used in determining the extent of an injury, it is difficult to see why the sense of touch ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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