Bessler v. Laughlin

Decision Date29 January 1907
Docket NumberNo. 20,826.,20,826.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

168 Ind. 38
79 N.E. 1033


No. 20,826.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

Jan. 29, 1907.

Appeal from Circuit Court, Ripley County; Willard New, Judge.

Action by John Laughlin against George Bessler. From a judgment for plaintiff, defendant appeals. Transferred from Appellate Court (77 N. E. 1047) under Burns' Ann. St. 1901, § 1337j. Reversed with directions.

Miller, Elam & Fesler, for appellant. J. O. Cravens and Roberts & Cravens, for appellee.


Action by appellee against appellant for personal injuries sustained by falling into a vat. It is contended by counsel for appellant that his separate demurrer to the first and second paragraphs of the complaint should have been sustained. It appears from both of said paragraphs that appellee was employed in appellant's veneer works, at Batesville, Ind., in rolling logs into a vat; that a cover had been provided for said vat, to be placed over it when not in use. At the time in question, and while appellee was rolling logs into said vat, the cover thereof was standing on its side, near said vat, and supported by a post. The cover became dislodged, without the fault of appellee, and it fell against him, causing him to lose his balance and fall into the vat. The first paragraph charges negligence in failing to provide and maintain a guard rail across and over the vat, while the second charges negligence in failing to provide a catch, snap, hook, chain, rope, or other attachment or safeguard to said cover to attach and securely fasten it when raised. On examination of said paragraphs it is evident that they were intended to charge a violation of section 9 of the act of March 2, 1899 (Acts 1899, p. 234, c. 142, section 7087i. Burns' Ann. St. 1901), commonly known as the “Factory Act.” But one objection is offered by appellant's counsel to the first paragraph. They assert that it shows, notwithstanding the general allegation that appellee was injured by reason of the failure to provide a guard rail, that the proximate cause of the injury was the falling of the cover.

It is charged in said paragraph that the cover was leaning against the post for support, as was necessary, proper, and customary, but, on the other hand, it is alleged that

[79 N.E. 1034]

appellee was exercising care, and that the cover became dislodged without his fault, and fell over on him. The conditions, therefore, under which appellee worked were permanent in their character, and of appellant's own making, while, on the other hand, appellee's connection therewith was wholly innocent. In these circumstances we decline to hold, as against the express averment as to the cause of the accident, that the mere disclosure of the fact that the vat cover—a nonresponsible agency—in some way fell, constituted a showing of the existence of such a new and independent agency as to break the causal connection between appellant's violation of duty and the injury. While it might be that appellant could scarcely have apprehended that his omission would eventuate in injury in the particular way that harm came to appellee, yet it is the general rule that it is the danger of harm to third persons, considered in the abstract, rather than in the concrete, which constitutes the basis of responsibility for the exercise of due care. Coy v. Indianapolis Gas Co., 146 Ind. 655, 46 N. E. 17, 36 L. R. A. 535;Davis v. Mercer Lumber Co., 164 Ind. 413, 73 N. E. 899;Chicago, etc., R. Co. v. Pritchard (at this term) 79 N. E. 508; 1 Street, Foundations of Legal Liability, 104; 1 Thompson, Comm. on Negligence, § 59, and cases cited. Whether a defendant was called on to apprehend that any injury might result from his omission is a matter which ordinarily goes to the question of whether there was any negligence, but, granting that the omission was negligent, that, without the intervention of any supervening cause, the wrong followed the injury in a natural sequence, and that the negligence and the injury were so correlated that morally the defendant's omission should be regarded as the efficient cause of the wrong complained of, and it may, without hesitation, be affirmed that such omission should be regarded as a proximate cause of the injury. Coy v. Indianapolis Gas Co., supra. To borrow from the thought of a leading writer, whose text upon the subject was quoted in extenso by this court in the case last cited: “The law is practical, and courts do not indulge refinements and subtleties as to causation if they tend to defeat the claims of natural justice. They rather adopt the practical rule that the efficient and predominating cause in producing a given effect or result, though subordinate and dependent causes may have...

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19 cases
  • Inland Steel Co. v. Yedinak
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 23 Febrero 1909
    ...135, 71 N. E. 268;Davis v. Mercer Lumber Co., 164 Ind. 413, 73 N. E. 899;Robertson v. Ford, 164 Ind. 538, 74 N. E. 1;Bessler v. Laughlin, 168 Ind. 38, 79 N. E. 1033. The complaint clearly shows that the position assumed by appellee immediately before falling asleep was not ordinarily hazard......
  • Inland Steel Co. v. Yedinak
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 23 Febrero 1909
    ......268;. Davis v. Mercer Lumber Co. (1905), 164 Ind. 413, 73 N.E. 899; Robertson v. Ford (1905),. 164 Ind. 538, 74 N.E. 1; Bessler v. Laughlin (1907), 168 Ind. 38, 79 N.E. 1033. . .          The. complaint clearly shows that the position assumed by appellee. ......
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    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 1 Junio 1911
    ...268;Buehner Chair Co. v. Feulner (1904) 164 Ind. 368, 73 N. E. 816;Robertson v. Ford (1904) 164 Ind. 538, 74 N. E. 1;Bessler v. Laughlin (1906) 168 Ind. 38, 79 N. E. 1033;United States Cement Co. v. Cooper (1909) 172 Ind. 599, 88 N. E. 69;Espenlaub v. Ellis (1904) 34 Ind. App. 163, 72 N. E.......
  • Cook v. Ormsby
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 27 Octubre 1909
    ...duty of persons operating manufacturing plants as to furnishing safe place, works, and machinery for their employés (Bessler v. Laughlin, 168 Ind. 38, 79 N. E. 1033;Robbins v. Ft. Wayne Iron, etc., Co., 41 Ind. App. 557, 84 N. E. 514); its purpose being to minimize the danger of employés us......
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