Butler v. Lewman

Decision Date10 June 1902
Citation42 S.E. 98,115 Ga. 752
PartiesBUTLER v. LEWMAN et al.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court.

1. It is the proper practice for the plaintiff in an action against several defendants to bring to this court for review, by a single bill of exceptions, separate judgments sustaining separate demurrers filed by the defendants below.

2. The owner of a building which has been damaged by fire, who delivers the same to an independent contractor for the purpose of repairing it generally and putting it in thorough order, and who surrenders to the latter full possession and complete control of the premises, is not, merely because of the peculiar arrangement of some of the interior appointments of the building, such as an elevator shaft, stairways, etc which, under certain conditions, may become sources of hidden danger to one unfamiliar with their location, liable to any person going into the building by invitation of the contractor for damages resulting from physical injuries sustained because of exposure to such danger.

3. In such a case the contractor is, in law, chargeable with knowledge of the existence of such appointments and their peculiar location, and therefore, relatively to the servant of one whom he employs to do a portion of the repairing under the duty of taking proper steps to guard him against any injury likely to occur by reason of the existence of such danger.

Error from city court of Atlanta; H. M. Reid, Judge.

Action by P. G. Butler against M. T. Lewman and others. Judgment for defendants, and plaintiff brings error. Modified.

Shepard Bryan and Harvey Hill, for plaintiff in error.

Rosser & Carter and Candler & Thomson, for defendants in error.


The plaintiff in error, Butler, brought in the city court of Atlanta an action for damages against Daniel O. Dougherty William A. Speer, Mrs. Katie Speer, Mrs. John Silvey, M. T Lewman & Co., a partnership, and the persons who were members of that firm. The facts upon which he based his alleged right of recovery were, as gathered from his petition, in substance as follows: The four defendants first named "are the owners, as tenants in common, of the land and building fronting twenty-five (25) feet on the east side of Loyd street, and known as lot No. 2 in the plat of the Markham House property," in the city of Atlanta. "On June 1, 1901, and before and after said date, the defendants M. T. Lewman & Co. were engaged, as contractors, in rebuilding said building, which had been partially destroyed by fire, and they were occupying and in possession of said premises. They were under contract to rebuild with said other defendants hereinbefore referred to as owners." On that date the plaintiff, "who is an ironworker, was doing galvanized ironwork on said building. He was employed by the Moncrief-Carter Company, who had contracted with said Lewman & Co. to do certain galvanized iron and tin work on said building. About 11:30 o'clock a. m. on said June 1, 1901, petitioner was at work in said building, putting galvanized iron under the front windows on the third floor, and overhauling it; the fire having damaged that part of the building. While petitioner was at work it became necessary for him to have a saw, in order to saw to the right length a piece of wood which was needed to firmly fix the galvanized iron in place. There was no saw on petitioner's scaffolding, and it was therefore necessary for petitioner to go down to the lower floor in order to get a saw. There was no ladder leading from the scaffold where petitioner was at work to said floor, and the only means to get down was by the stairway. This was the only method provided by the defendants, the contractors, for persons to use in reaching and in descending from the upper stories of the building. Said stairway and the elevator shaft in said building were all contained within one wall, which jutted out in the form of a square from the partition wall on the north side of said building. In the side of said square wall on said third floor, where petitioner was at work, are three doors, all exactly alike in size and appearance. One of said doors opens into the ascending steps, and one of said doors to the descending steps, and the other one of said doors into the elevator shaft. All of said doors were unlocked and unfastened, but closed, and there was no sign or mark of any kind by which petitioner or any other person could tell which door opened into the elevator shaft or to the steps. Said doors are about an equal distance apart. Said shaft was not in use from elevator, and had not been for some time." The "only light that reaches said part of the building where said doors are located is from remote windows at each end of said building, the distance being about twenty-five or thirty yards. The light is very faint, because the said building is very deep and narrow; being less than twenty-five feet in width, and about one hundred and fifty (150) feet in length." On the date above mentioned "the interior of said building about said doors was dark and gloomy, and it was necessary for petitioner to grope his way about in his search for the door and the stairway. It was too dark to see how to get about." He "started to descend from said third floor by means of said stairway, [and] went toward the door leading to said stairway; but on account of the darkness in the interior of the building, and on account of the darkness within the wall inclosing said stairways and elevator shaft, and because all of said doors stood so close together, petitioner entered the door leading to the elevator shaft, and fell down said shaft, three stories, and into the basement of said building," sustaining serious and permanent injuries. He "had no knowledge of said elevator shaft, and the darkness was so great and the arrangement of the doors was such that plaintiff, in the exercise of ordinary care, and intending to enter the door which led to the stairs, entered the door opening on the shaft. There was no light on the landings of the steps, and the door leading to the elevator shaft was not nailed or fastened or marked by any signal or sign, and there was no protection whatever about said place. After opening said...

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11 cases
  • Barron v. Barron
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • December 11, 1935
    ... ... joint motion for a new trial, even though separate answers ... had been filed by them. Butler v. Lewman, 115 Ga ... 752, 42 S.E. 98; East Atlanta Land Co. v. Mower, 138 ... Ga. 380, 75 S.E. 418; Higdon v. Bell, 144 Ga. 485, ... 87 S.E ... ...
  • Camp v. Curry-arrington Co
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • January 30, 1930
    ...been applied, and that under it an affirmative answer to this question could have been made. See, in this connection, Butler v. Lewman, 115 Ga. 752(3), 42 S. E. 9S; Palmer Brick Co. v. Chenall, 119 Ga. 837(3), 47 S. E. 329; Monahan v. National Realty Co., 4 Ga. App. 680 (3), 62 S. E. 127; S......
  • Middleton v. P. Sanford Ross, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • February 17, 1914
    ...his premises in safe condition. Indermaur v. Dames, 1 L.R., C.P. 274; Huey v. Atlanta, 8 Ga.App. 597, 70 S.E. 71; Butler v. Lewman, 115 Ga. 752, 758, 42 S.E. 98; Montrose (D.C.) 179 F. 1000; Pioneer S.S. Co. v. McCann, 170 F. 873, 96 C.C.A. 49. And he owes such duty to independent contracto......
  • Camp v. Curry-Arrington Co.
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • January 30, 1930
    ... ... affirmative answer to this question could have been made ... See, in this connection, Butler v. Lewman, 115 Ga ... 752(3), 42 S.E. 98; Palmer Brick Co. v. Chenall, 119 ... Ga. 837(3), 47 S.E. 329; Monahan v. National Realty Co., ... 4 ... ...
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