Beauvais v. Springfield Inst. for Sav.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtRONAN
Citation20 N.E.2d 957,303 Mass. 136
Decision Date06 May 1939
PartiesBEAUVAIS v. SPRINGFIELD INSTITUTE FOR SAVINGS.

303 Mass. 136
20 N.E.2d 957

BEAUVAIS
v.
SPRINGFIELD INSTITUTE FOR SAVINGS.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Hampden.

May 6, 1939.


Exceptions from Superior Court, Hampden County; Baker, Judge.

Action by Rose Anna Beauvais, executrix, against the Springfield Institution for Savings, for testator's conscious suffering and death in boiler explosion. Verdicts for plaintiff were set aside and verdicts were ordered for defendant, and plaintiff brings exceptions.

Decree in accordance with opinion.

[20 N.E.2d 959]

C. E. Drapeau, and S. Saltman, both of Holyoke, for plaintiff.

H. P. Small and C. R. Brooks, both of Springfield, for defendant.


RONAN, Justice.

The defendant became the owner in June, 1932, of a building consisting of three stores. In the basement of one of these stores was located a central heating plant which furnished heat to the entire building. This store was occupied by the testator, who conducted a drug store. He was a tenant at will, paying a monthly rental, ‘and in addition performed such janitor services and supervision as was necessary for the heating plant, including setting the thermostat, maintaining the water level, ordering oil, and paying for such electrical energy as was used to operate the plant.’ This arrangement continued up to the time of the accident. The defendant contracted with one Harrington to install a used burner of a certain type of designated manufacture for a lump sum. The contract was completed on December 12, 1933. The burner was inspected by the manager of the defendant's real estate department to see that it complied with the contract. It was paid for by the defendant on December 18, 1933, and was continued in operation until the accident on March 13, 1934. This burner had been previously used in a church and was too large for the defendant's premises. Harrington removed the high speed motor and put in its place the low speed motor which had been located in another part of this burner; he changed the nozzle, which was adapted to a burner consuming fifteen gallons of oil an hour, to one designed for a burner using two and one half gallons; he eliminated the master control, which was a safety device for stopping the burner when the flow of oil was interrupted or when oil was being fed without being ignited, and substituted for it, in the stack of the heater, an appliance to accomplish the same purpose. There was evidence that the master control, which was placed in the combustion chamber, would act more quickly than a stack control whose operation depended upon the amount of heat generated by the gases escaping to the chimney, but that the stack control could be properly adjusted and timed to furnish an efficient safeguard. The burner actually furnished differed materially from the one mentioned in the contract with Harrington, and the defendant's agent should have discovered this when he inspected the work before paying the bill. The testator soon after opening his place of business on the morning of March 13, 1934, was unable to start the burner by adjusting the thermostat. He went down stairs and opened the door of the boiler; an explosion, caused by the accumulation

[20 N.E.2d 960]

of gas in the boiler from oil that had failed to ignite, resulted, emitting ‘a terrible fire,’ throwing the testator down, and burning him so severely that he died after several days of conscious suffering. Verdicts in favor of the plaintiff for conscious suffering and for death were set aside, leave having been reserved, and verdicts were ordered for the defendant, subject to the plaintiff's exceptions. There was considerable conflict in the testimony but we have narrated the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, in accordance with the rule established in this Commonwealth in determining the correctness of the action of the trial judge in directing verdicts for the defendant.

The defendant contends that the testator was a tenant at will; that the heating system was a part of the demised premises and was under the sole control of the tenant; that the defendant was not obliged by contract to repair the heater; that if it did install another burner such act was a gratuitous undertaking which might ordinarily entail liability for personal injury if it were shown that the defendant had been grossly negligent, and for death if it were shown that the defendant had failed to exercise ordinary diligence; that in the present case the defendant did not incur liability for the reason that an independent contractor, in whose selection there was no negligence, performed the contemplated work, which was of wuch a nature that it did not constitute a nuisance or necessarily bring to pass injuries to persons or property if proper precautions were taken.

The jury could find that the boiler and burner, both being located in the basement of the drug store, were parts of a single heating system installed and maintained for the purpose of furnishing a supply of heat not only to the drug store but also to the other stores that comprised the property of the defendant. It is reasonable to infer, in the absence of the terms under which the other stores were let, that, if they were to be occupied, adequate heating must be secured. It is plain that the heating system was maintained not only for the benefit of the testator but also for the advantage of the defendant. It was a matter not only of convenience but of mutual arrangement that the tenant of the drug store, where the thermostat regulating the operation of the system was located, should attend to the heater in accordance with the terms of the contract between him and the owner. Other than paying for the electricity consumed, he could have been found, as stated in the defendant's answers to interrogatories, to have been performing janitor's service incidental to his tenancy relative to the heater. His contract, however, did not obligate him to repair the burner or to maintain it in proper mechanical and electrical condition. Calabresa v. Lynch, 271 Mass. 58, 170 N.E. 812. The jury could find that the defendant had contracted with the testator and with the other tenants to furnish heat to the stores; that in pursuance of this obligation it installed the burner on December 12, 1933, under a contract which required the vendor to furnish for the contract price ‘a one year service and parts guarantee’; that the vendor, subsequently to the installation of the burner and prior to the accident, had made two service inspections, found the burner working properly, and made no repairs; that the defendant kept a record of complaints concerning its real estate; that there were no complaints made to the defendant with respect to this burner but, if there had been, it would have notified Harrington, who, after remedying the defect, would send a bill showing no charges, as such repairs would come within his guaranty of service; and that, after the accident, the defendant sent for Harrington, who removed the burner, tested it, dried out portions of it that had become damp on account of water used in extinguishing the fire, and replaced it on the property at the expense of the defendant. Such evidence would warrant a finding that the defendant had retained the supervision and control of the burner for the purpose of seeing that it was installed and maintained in proper mechanical condition, and that it did so not as a matter of a gratuitous undertaking but in pursuance of a contract with its tenant which required the defendant to exercise reasonable care and diligence in its performance, Feeley v. Doyle, 222 Mass. 155, 109 N.E. 902, L.R.A.1916F, 1121;Withington v. Rome, 258 Mass. 188, 154 N.E. 764;Lischner v. Hahn, 273 Mass. 259, 173 N.E. 424;Connery v. Cass, 277 Mass. 545, 179 N.E. 164;Cleary v. Union Realty Co. Mass., 15 N.E.2d 184, and the fact that the burner was located upon the demised premises is not decisive. Priest v. Nichols, 116 Mass. 401.Hilden v. Naylor, 223 Mass. 290, 111 N.E. 848;

[20 N.E.2d 961]

Kendall v. Tashjian, 258 Mass. 377, 155 N.E. 4;Brindis v. Haverhill Morris Plan Co., 266 Mass. 303, 165 N.E. 116;Devine v. Lyman, 270 Mass. 246, 169 N.E. 908.

It is to be noted that the guaranty that Harrington gave to the defendant not only required him to service the burner for a year after its installation but also included a ‘parts guarantee.’ Such an arrangement was evidence that the defendant had retained control of the burner for the purposes of supervising its ordinary and usual operation and of having repairs made, at least in so far as such repairs consisted in the substitution of new parts for those that were shown to have been defective when the burner was installed. Perkins v. Rice, 187 Mass. 28, 72 N.E. 323;Baum v. Ahlborn, 210 Mass. 336, 96 N.E. 671;Lekarczyk v. Dupre, 265 Mass. 33, 163 N.E. 642.

If the shut-off device, which the jury could find Harrington had put into the stack and had substituted for the master control furnished by the manufacturer of the burner as a part of the standard equipment of that type of burner, was not properly timed, the burner would continue to operate unsafely by ‘pumping oil in a boiler without fire, that didn't ignite,’ and an explosion might result from an accumulation of oil gases. The rules and regulations of the department of public safety made in accordance with G.L. (Ter.Ed.) c. 148, § 10, forbid the installation of a fuel oil burner without a permit from the State fire marshal or, in case the building is used for habitation, from the head of the local fire department. They also provide that ‘No fuel oil burner shall be installed, maintained or used in any building * * * unless the burner has been approved, and no change shall be made in any such burner unless such change has been approved. Every approved burner shall have affixed thereto a metal tag certifying that the burner has been approved by the State Fire Marshall, * * * and said tag shall also bear the name and the number of...

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48 practice notes
  • Germann v. Matriss
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • January 19, 1970
    ...specified by the Legislature. Kuykendall v. Edmondson, 205 Ala. 265, 87 So. 882 (1921); Beauvais v. Springfield Institute For Savings, 303 Mass. 136, 20 N.E.2d 957, 124 A.L.R. 611 (1939); Tillinghast v. Maggs, 82 R.I. 478, 111 A.2d 713, 52 A.L.R.2d 1004 (1955). It follows therefore that the......
  • Bendett v. Bendett
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • November 30, 1943
    ...428, 438, 124 N.E. 260;Ferris v. Ray Taxi Service Co., 259 Mass. 401, 404, 156 N.E. 538;Beauvais v. Springfield Institution for Savings, 303 Mass. 136, 147, 20 N.E.2d 957, 124 A.L.R. 611;Carson v. Boston Elevated Ry., 309 Mass. 32, 33, 33 N.E.2d 701; Wigmore, Evidence, 3d Ed. § 1081. The on......
  • Members of Bakery & Confectionery Workers Union v. Hall Baking Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • October 5, 1946
    ...case is not one. New York Trust Co. v. Brewster, 241 Mass. 155, 162, 163, 134 N.E. 616.Beauvais v. Springfield Institution for Savings, 303 Mass. 136, 145, 146, 20 N.E.2d 957, 124 A.L.R. 611. The statutory exception (G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 231, § 2) as to ‘money due for manual labor’ has no appli......
  • Susemiehl v. Red River Lumber Co., Gen. No. 9506.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • May 15, 1940
    ...but separate and distinct recoveries for a double wrong. Beauvais v. Springfield Institute For Savings, a Massachusetts case reported in 20 N.E.2d 957, 124 A.L.R. 611, and cases referred to in the annotation following the report of that case. See also Koehler v. Waukesha Milk Co., 190 Wis. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • Germann v. Matriss
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • January 19, 1970
    ...specified by the Legislature. Kuykendall v. Edmondson, 205 Ala. 265, 87 So. 882 (1921); Beauvais v. Springfield Institute For Savings, 303 Mass. 136, 20 N.E.2d 957, 124 A.L.R. 611 (1939); Tillinghast v. Maggs, 82 R.I. 478, 111 A.2d 713, 52 A.L.R.2d 1004 (1955). It follows therefore that the......
  • Bendett v. Bendett
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • November 30, 1943
    ...428, 438, 124 N.E. 260;Ferris v. Ray Taxi Service Co., 259 Mass. 401, 404, 156 N.E. 538;Beauvais v. Springfield Institution for Savings, 303 Mass. 136, 147, 20 N.E.2d 957, 124 A.L.R. 611;Carson v. Boston Elevated Ry., 309 Mass. 32, 33, 33 N.E.2d 701; Wigmore, Evidence, 3d Ed. § 1081. The on......
  • Members of Bakery & Confectionery Workers Union v. Hall Baking Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • October 5, 1946
    ...case is not one. New York Trust Co. v. Brewster, 241 Mass. 155, 162, 163, 134 N.E. 616.Beauvais v. Springfield Institution for Savings, 303 Mass. 136, 145, 146, 20 N.E.2d 957, 124 A.L.R. 611. The statutory exception (G.L.(Ter.Ed.) c. 231, § 2) as to ‘money due for manual labor’ has no appli......
  • Susemiehl v. Red River Lumber Co., Gen. No. 9506.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • May 15, 1940
    ...but separate and distinct recoveries for a double wrong. Beauvais v. Springfield Institute For Savings, a Massachusetts case reported in 20 N.E.2d 957, 124 A.L.R. 611, and cases referred to in the annotation following the report of that case. See also Koehler v. Waukesha Milk Co., 190 Wis. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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