Hughes v. PRESIDENT AND DIRECTORS, ETC., No. 88895.

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtHenry I. Quinn, of Washington, D. C., for defendant
Citation33 F. Supp. 867
PartiesHUGHES v. PRESIDENT AND DIRECTORS OF GEORGETOWN COLLEGE.
Docket NumberNo. 88895.
Decision Date04 June 1940

33 F. Supp. 867

HUGHES
v.
PRESIDENT AND DIRECTORS OF GEORGETOWN COLLEGE.

No. 88895.

District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia.

June 4, 1940.


33 F. Supp. 868

Emmett L. Sheehan and Maurice H. Lanman, Jr., both of Washington, D. C., for plaintiff.

Henry I. Quinn, of Washington, D. C., for defendant.

PROCTOR, Justice.

The plaintiff, Susan M. Hughes, was seriously and permanently injured in Georgetown University Hospital while about her duties as a nurse specially employed by a paying patient. A jury by special verdict found the injury to have resulted from negligence of a student nurse in the regular employ of the hospital. The defendant corporation is an eleemosynary institution. The hospital is one of the charitable activities conducted by it. An insurance policy protects defendant from any loss legally imposed in a tort action to the extent of $25,000, besides the costs of defense.

Several defenses are urged against a judgment upon the verdict. The basic contention is made that defendant as a charitable institution is altogether immune from liability for torts of its employees in the course of their work, and alternatively that the plaintiff was a beneficiary of the charity and as such excluded from recovery against the institution.

The argument for total immunity hinges upon the early English rule, based upon the so-called "trust fund theory" that recognition of liability would operate to wrongfully divert trust funds donated for charity. Duncan v. Findlater, 6 C. & F. 894, Feoffees of Heriot's Hospital v. Ross, 12 C. & F. 507, Holliday v. Vestry of St. Leonard, 11 C.B., N.S., 192. The doctrine found some support in this country led by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts in McDonald v. Massachusetts General Hospital, 120 Mass. 432, 21 Am.Rep. 529. It has met with favor by this court. Mattson v. Columbia Hospital, Law 65825, Bauer v. Childrens' Hospital, Law 73184, Sundheimer v. Georgetown College, Law 83333. However, there is no controlling decision in this jurisdiction. The theory upon which the rule is grounded requires its universal application. It admits of no exception. Recipients of the charity and strangers thereto must be treated alike. All are barred. Hamburger v. Cornell University, 240 N.Y. 328, 338, 148 N.E. 539, 42 A.L.R. 955; Andrews v. Y. M. C. A., Iowa, 284 N.W. 186, 189. The doctrine met with opposition in England and was finally repudiated by the House of Lords in the related cases of Mersey Docks, etc., and Gibbs v. Pierce, 11 H of L. Cases 686. It has often been severly criticised and rejected in this country. Andrews v. Y. M. C. A., supra, 284 N.W. 189 and cases cited. Our courts have turned to other and varying theories which, in their final analysis, appear to rest upon the dictates of public policy. Ettlinger v. Trustees of Randolph Macon College, 4 Cir., 31 F.2d 869, 870. A review of American cases shows a steady tendency to draw away from the concept of total immunity by distinguishing between beneficiaries and strangers to the charity. Thus, today we find the great weight of authority exempting charitable institutions from liability to recipients of the...

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4 practice notes
  • 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
    ...directed verdict and to set aside the verdict were denied. The trial court's opinion, filed at the time of judgment, is reported in 1940, 33 F.Supp. 867. We affirm the The court is in agreement concerning the issues of negligence and contributory negligence. The only question is whether the......
  • Winters v. Jersey City
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • July 28, 1972
    ...1, § 5, p. 22; See, also, President and Dir. of Georgetown College v. Hughes, 76 U.S.App.D.C. 123, 130 F.2d 810 (D.C. Cir.1942) (aff'g 33 F.Supp. 867 The policy reasons inspiring charitable immunity at common law have no application to a municipality operating a hospital. (4) The general po......
  • Heimbuch v. President and Directors of Georgetown Col., Civ. A. No. 2211-61
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 10, 1966
    ...this case was known as Hughes v. President and Directors of Georgetown College. The opinion of Justice Proctor therein is found in D.C., 33 F.Supp. 867. --------...
  • United States v. Rollnick, No. 2100.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • July 1, 1940
    ...Hogan v. Hill, supra. The petitioner also contends that if the Court cannot grant relief in the nature of mandamus, it has the power of 33 F. Supp. 867 a court of equity to grant a mandatory injunction. The relief thus granted would be that which is properly in the province of mandamus. Whi......
4 cases
  • 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
    ...directed verdict and to set aside the verdict were denied. The trial court's opinion, filed at the time of judgment, is reported in 1940, 33 F.Supp. 867. We affirm the The court is in agreement concerning the issues of negligence and contributory negligence. The only question is whether the......
  • Winters v. Jersey City
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • July 28, 1972
    ...1, § 5, p. 22; See, also, President and Dir. of Georgetown College v. Hughes, 76 U.S.App.D.C. 123, 130 F.2d 810 (D.C. Cir.1942) (aff'g 33 F.Supp. 867 The policy reasons inspiring charitable immunity at common law have no application to a municipality operating a hospital. (4) The general po......
  • Heimbuch v. President and Directors of Georgetown Col., Civ. A. No. 2211-61
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 10, 1966
    ...this case was known as Hughes v. President and Directors of Georgetown College. The opinion of Justice Proctor therein is found in D.C., 33 F.Supp. 867. --------...
  • United States v. Rollnick, No. 2100.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • July 1, 1940
    ...Hogan v. Hill, supra. The petitioner also contends that if the Court cannot grant relief in the nature of mandamus, it has the power of 33 F. Supp. 867 a court of equity to grant a mandatory injunction. The relief thus granted would be that which is properly in the province of mandamus. Whi......

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