Hearns v. Waterbury Hosp.

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtHAMERSLEY, J.
Citation66 Conn. 98,33 A. 595
PartiesHEARNS v. WATERBURY HOSPITAL.
Decision Date05 April 1895
33 A. 595
66 Conn. 98

HEARNS
v.
WATERBURY HOSPITAL.

Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut.

April 5, 1895.


Appeal from superior court, New Haven county; George W. Wheeler, Judge.

Action by Hugh Hearns against the Waterbury Hospital for negligent treatment while a patient. From a judgment for defendant, plaintiff appeals. Affirmed.

John O'Neill and William Kennedy, for appellant.

Stephen W. Kellogg and John P. Kellogg, for appellee.

HAMERSLEY, J. The Waterbury Hospital was incorporated, by special act of the legislature, "for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a hospital in the town of Waterbury." Under this authority it was organized "for the purpose of furnishing medical and surgical care, nurses, medicines, and food, to patients suffering from disease

33 A. 596

or from Injuries." It has no capital stock, and its members can derive no profit from the corporation. These features clearly indicate a "charitable corporation," within the meaning of our law. American Asylum at Hartford, etc., v. President, etc., Phoenix Bank, 4 Conn. 172; Bishop's Fund v. Eagle Bank, 7 Conn. 476; Town of Hamden v. Rice, 24 Conn. 350. To this hospital the plaintiff applied for treatment of a fractured kneecap, and brings this action to recover damages for injuries caused, as he claims, by the unskillful and negligent treatment which he received at the hospital. The complaint, after stating the incorporation of the hospital, and the adoption of certain by-laws, alleges that the plaintiff requested of the proper officers admission to the hospital, and promised to pay the defendant such reasonable compensation as it should demand; that the defendant, in consideration thereof, agreed to treat him with care and skill, and furnish him with surgical care, etc., for that purpose; that the defendant was guilty of negligence in the manner specified, and thereby violated its said agreement and duty, whereby the plaintiff was injured, etc. The defendant's answer denies the negligence and injury, and sets up a special defense to the action, reciting the purposes of its incorporation, and alleging that its by-laws provided that "neither the medical and surgical staff, nor physician or surgeon designated by them, nor any officer of the corporation, shall receive compensation from the hospital in any form for the duties performed in its behalf." To this special defense the plaintiff demurred. The court below overruled the demurrer, and gave judgment for the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed from that judgment.

The demurrer to the defendant's answer cannot entitle the plaintiff to judgment if his complaint is insufficient. We therefore pass over the question which might have been raised as to the special defense alleged being a strictly legal way of presenting the defendant's claims, and consider the only question argued before us, namely, does the negligence alleged in the complaint entitle the plaintiff to recover damages from the defendant? The negligence which caused the injury is stated to have been that of the attending surgeon and attending nurses while in performance of their duties, and in order to confine the issue as closely as possible, it was stipulated by the parties that, solely for the purpose of the disposition of this appeal, and without prejudice to any future proceedings, the court should assume, upon the record, that the defendant exercised due care in the selection of nurses, physicians, and surgeons, by whose alleged negligence or want of skill and attention the plaintiff was injured. Possibly it might be claimed that the complaint raises the further question of the defendant's liability for its own negligence in failing to perform its alleged duty of appointing a house physician, or "interne," so called; but such claim has not been made, and we do not think it can properly be made upon this appeal. Even if the question were not excluded by the stipulation of the parties, the record fails to show that it was raised on the trial and decided by the court below. It is not specified in the reasons of appeal, and in the argument before us was not discussed. The only question with which we have to deal is the liability of the defendant for the negligent conduct of physicians and nurses employed by it, and in the selection of whom it has exercised due care. The conclusion we have reached makes it unnecessary to pass upon the question whether the hospital's attending physicians can really be regarded as standing to the corporation in the relation of servant to master, or to discuss the nature and extent of the corporate liabilities of an eleemosynary corporation. All questions essential to the disposition of the case presented by this appeal are settled by deciding upon the liability of the defendant for the negligence of its servants, i. e. when a corporation like the defendant employs a servant who does not represent it in the way that every corporation must be represented by its directors or managers, but is simply employed for a special work in the same manner as if employed by an individual for the same work, is such corporation liable for an injury caused in the course of his employment by such servant, and due solely to his negligent conduct?

This question has never been decided in this state. It has, however, arisen in other states and in England, and has been so intermingled with the different one of the corporate liability of eleemosynary corporations for their own corporate negligence that the review we make of cases illustrating the treatment the subject has received from other courts will necessarily include some cases bearing more directly on the latter question.

The question arose in England in 1824, in the court of common pleas, in the case of Hall v. Smith, 2 Bing. 156. Commissioners for the town of Birmingham ordered a tunnel through a public street The surveyor and contractor appointed by them to build it failed to put up guard rails or to provide lights. The court held that the commissioners were not liable,—not because such a corporation or quasi corporation for public purposes was not liable for its negligence; not because the surveyor and contractor were not the servants of the corporation (the early case of Bush v. Steinman, 1 Bos. & P. 404, had not then been overruled); but because the rule of respondeat superior did not apply. Best, C. J., said: "The maxim of respondeat superior is bottomed on the principle that he who expects to derive advantage from an act which is done by another for him must answer for any injury which

33 A. 597

a third person may sustain from it." And so the reason of the rule does not apply to trustees for public purposes, acting according to their best judgment and with the best advice.

In 1839, Duncan v. Findlater, 6 Clark & P. 894, was decided by the house of lords. It was a Scotch case,—an action against the trustees of a turnpike road for injuries caused by the negligence of a surveyor appointed by them. The only question actually decided in this case was that the trustees were not liable for an injury caused by the neglect of a person not standing in the relation of a servant to the trustees. But the language of Lord Cottenham went further, and stated the principle that unpaid trustees for public purposes can in no case be liable in their corporate or quasi corporate capacity. This statement was rejected in subsequent cases, and in Trustees, etc., v. Gibbs, L. R. 1 H. L. 93, was distinctly held unfounded in law.

The same year Parnaby v. Canal Co., 11 Adol. & E. 223, was decided, and held that when a statute of incorporation authorized a company to construct a canal, and did not in special terms impose any duty in reference to its use, the general law imposed upon the company the duty to use reasonable care in making navigation secure. The case is pertinent only because it defines the principle of implied corporate duty corresponding to granted corporate powers, which principle subsequent cases hold applicable to powers granted to trustees for public purposes and corporations for charitable purposes, as well as to corporations organized for profit.

Trustees, etc., v. Ross, 12 Clark & F. 507, decided in 1846, has been frequently cited in American cases. The action was an attempt to apply trust funds, given by a private donor for founding a hospital for the maintenance of fatherless boys, to be governed in pursuance of statutes established by him, towards the payment of damages caused by a refusal of the trustees of the fund to obey the statutes of the founder in respect to an applicant for admission to the hospital. The Scotch court of session ordered damages to be assessed against the fund, and upon appeal to the house of lords two questions were presented: Did the statutes of the founder give to every eligible person a right to admission on application, without any discretion in the trustees as to selection? And, second, can the damages caused by the wrongful refusal of trustees to admit an applicant entitled of right to admission be recovered from the trust fund? The house refused to consider the first question, and reversed the order of the court of session on the ground that the wrong, if any, done to the applicant, was done by the individual trustees who voted against his admission, and that they were liable in an action, and the trust fund was not. In Duncan v. Pindlater, supra, the claim had been made that the Scotch practice of using trust funds to pay damages for injuries Caused by their managers was authorized by Scotch law, and the house of lords had decided that it was not authorized by Scotch law; and now within a few years of that decision, when a Scotch court again holds that the condemned practice is authorized by Scotch law, the house makes short work of the case, refuses to consider a doubtful and important question involved, or to discuss an authority, except Duncan v. Pindlater, which had not been duly respected. The pith...

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68 practice notes
  • Muller v. Nebraska Methodist Hospital, No. 33694
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • April 29, 1955
    ...Ky., 265 S.W.2d 80; Jensen v. Maine Eye & Ear Infirmary, 107 Me. 408, 78 A. 898, 33 L.R.A.,N.S., 141; Hearns v. Waterbury Hospital, 66 Conn. 98, 33 A. 595, 31 L.R.A. 224; St. Vincent's Hospital v. Stine, 195 Ind. 350, 144 N.E. 537, 33 A.L.R. 1361; Cullen v. Schmit, 139 Ohio St. 194, 39 ......
  • Andrews v. Young Men's Christian Ass'n of Des Moines, No. 44403.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 15, 1939
    ...it is not responsible for their negligent acts. Some of the decisions which support this theory, notably, Hearns v. Waterbury Hospital, 66 Conn. 98, 33 A. 595, 603, 31 L.R.A. 224, speak of the respondeat superior rule as at times a hard rule, resting on public policy, and that it should not......
  • President and Dir. of Georgetown College v. Hughes, No. 7761.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 30, 1942
    ...Cohen v. General Hospital Soc. of Connecticut, 1931, 113 Conn. 188, 154 A. 435 (stranger); Hearns v. Waterbury Hospital, 1895, 66 Conn. 98, 33 A. 595, 31 L.R.A. 224 (patient); Cashman v. Meriden Hospital, 1933, 117 Conn. 585, 169 A. 915 (patient). Indiana: Winona Technical Institute v. Stol......
  • Barden,v,. Atlantic Coast Line Ry. Co.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • April 13, 1910
    ...Haggerty v. Ry. Co., 100 Mo. App. 424, 74 S. W. 456; Perry v. House of Refuge, 63 Md. 20, 52 Am. Rep. 495; Hearns v. Water-bury Hospital, 66 Conn. 98, 33 Atl. 595, 31 L. R. A. 224; Downes v. Harper Hospital, 101 Mich. 555, 60 N. W. 42, 25 L. R. A. 602, 45 Am. St. Rep. 427; Fire Patrol v. Bo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
68 cases
  • Muller v. Nebraska Methodist Hospital, No. 33694
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • April 29, 1955
    ...Ky., 265 S.W.2d 80; Jensen v. Maine Eye & Ear Infirmary, 107 Me. 408, 78 A. 898, 33 L.R.A.,N.S., 141; Hearns v. Waterbury Hospital, 66 Conn. 98, 33 A. 595, 31 L.R.A. 224; St. Vincent's Hospital v. Stine, 195 Ind. 350, 144 N.E. 537, 33 A.L.R. 1361; Cullen v. Schmit, 139 Ohio St. 194, 39 ......
  • Andrews v. Young Men's Christian Ass'n of Des Moines, No. 44403.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 15, 1939
    ...it is not responsible for their negligent acts. Some of the decisions which support this theory, notably, Hearns v. Waterbury Hospital, 66 Conn. 98, 33 A. 595, 603, 31 L.R.A. 224, speak of the respondeat superior rule as at times a hard rule, resting on public policy, and that it should not......
  • President and Dir. of Georgetown College v. Hughes, No. 7761.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 30, 1942
    ...Cohen v. General Hospital Soc. of Connecticut, 1931, 113 Conn. 188, 154 A. 435 (stranger); Hearns v. Waterbury Hospital, 1895, 66 Conn. 98, 33 A. 595, 31 L.R.A. 224 (patient); Cashman v. Meriden Hospital, 1933, 117 Conn. 585, 169 A. 915 (patient). Indiana: Winona Technical Institute v. Stol......
  • Barden,v,. Atlantic Coast Line Ry. Co.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • April 13, 1910
    ...Haggerty v. Ry. Co., 100 Mo. App. 424, 74 S. W. 456; Perry v. House of Refuge, 63 Md. 20, 52 Am. Rep. 495; Hearns v. Water-bury Hospital, 66 Conn. 98, 33 Atl. 595, 31 L. R. A. 224; Downes v. Harper Hospital, 101 Mich. 555, 60 N. W. 42, 25 L. R. A. 602, 45 Am. St. Rep. 427; Fire Patrol v. Bo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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