Hull v. Wimberly & Thomas Hardware Co.

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtSIMPSON, J. MAYFIELD, J.
Citation178 Ala. 538,59 So. 568
PartiesHULL v. WIMBERLY & THOMAS HARDWARE CO. ET AL.
Decision Date30 May 1912

59 So. 568

178 Ala. 538

HULL
v.
WIMBERLY & THOMAS HARDWARE CO.
ET AL.

Supreme Court of Alabama

May 30, 1912


Rehearing Denied June 29, 1912.

Appeal from City Court of Birmingham; H. A. Sharpe, Judge.

Action by William J. Hull, as administrator of the estate of Charlie Hull, deceased, against the Wimberly & Thomas Hardware Company and others. From a judgment overruling plaintiff's demurrer to defendants' plea, plaintiff appeals. Affirmed.

Dowdell, C.J., and McClellan, J., dissenting. [59 So. 569]

Allen & Bell, of Birmingham, for appellant.

Cabaniss & Bowie, of Birmingham, for appellees.

SIMPSON, J.

This action is brought by the appellant, as administrator of the estate of Charlie Hull, deceased, for the death of said Charlie Hull, under the Employer's Liability Act (Code 1907, §§ 3910-3913), with counts also on the common-law liability. The defendants filed a plea alleging that William J. Hull, the plaintiff in this case, who is also the father of the deceased, Charlie Hull, who at the time of his death was a member of the family of said William J. Hull, had previously brought suit against the defendant in this case for damages for the death of his said minor son, in which he recovered a judgment, which has been fully paid. The complaint in the former case, and the amendment thereto, are attached as exhibits to said plea, the first count being for employing the plaintiff's said son in a hazardous business, without his consent; the second, for that his said son, having been employed without the consent of the father, was placed in a dangerous and hazardous place to work, to wit, at or near an unguarded elevator shaft, and, though inexperienced, was not warned of the danger, so that he fell therein and was killed. Each of these counts claimed for lost services. The third count alleged that plaintiff's minor son was in the service or employment of the defendant, and that the injury resulted from the failure of the defendant to provide a safe place for him to work. The fourth count also alleged that said minor son was an employé and that his death resulted from the failure of said defendant to properly guard the elevator shaft. The fifth count alleged the negligence to be in the defendant company's agents', servants', or employés' willfully, wantonly, or intentionally allowing said elevator shaft to be unprotected, with knowledge that said minor would probably be killed or seriously injured. The sixth count alleged that the death occurred by reason of the negligence of a person in the service or employment of the defendant, who had superintendence intrusted to him, etc. The court overruled a demurrer to said plea, which forms the basis for the only assignment of error; the plaintiff having taken a nonsuit with bill of exceptions, and appealed.

Section 2485 of our present Code gives the right of action for the death of a minor, caused by wrongful act, to the father or mother, or, if they fail to act within six months, "the personal representative of such minor may sue, and in any case shall recover such damages as the jury may assess; but suit by any one of them * * * shall be a bar to another action either under this section or under the succeeding section."

The next succeeding section (2486), which gives the right to the personal representative to sue for wrongful death, in all cases where "the testator or intestate could have maintained an action * * * if it had not caused death."

Section 3912, in the chapter in our Code on "Employer and Employé," provides that, if the injury to a servant or employé results in death, his personal representative is entitled to maintain the action, and provides that the damages recovered shall be distributed according to the statute of distributions.

This court has held that the effect of the Employer's Liability Act is to designate the only person who can sue for the death of an employé, to wit, the administrator. Lovell v. De Bardelaben C. & I. Co., 90 Ala. 13, 18, 7 So. 756.

The appellant argues that, as the administrator is the only person who can sue under the Employer's Law, and the parent cannot, a suit by the parent cannot be res judicata as to a subsequent suit by the administrator. [59 So. 570]

The history of section 2485 may furnish some light on the proper interpretation of it. In 1885 a general act was passed providing that, when personal injury or death of a minor was caused by wrongful act, the father or mother, or in case of their death the legal representative, could maintain the action, "provided, that but one suit shall be maintained for the said injuries or death." Acts 1884-85, p. 99. At that time the parent's common-law right of action for injury, and the Homicide Act, were in existence, and the Employer's Liability Act was before the Legislature, and passed a short time thereafter. The writer is free to confess that, if it were a new question, he would be disposed to hold that that was a general act, applying to all cases of death by wrongful act; but the law is otherwise, as above stated, to the effect that it did not confer the right on the parent to sue under the Employer's Act. Nevertheless, the proviso is clear to the effect that while an administrator might, before the passage of the act, sue under the Homicide Act and under the Employer's Act, yet the Legislature now confers the right of action on the parent first, next on the administrator, "provided that but one suit" (of any kind) "shall be maintained for the said injuries or death."

This act was substantially carried into section 2588 of the Code of 1886, and section 26 of the Code of 1896, stating, in the place of the words of the proviso, that "a suit by the father or mother, in such case, is a bar to a suit by the personal representative." Then comes our present section 2485 of the Code of 1907, fixing the conditions under which the personal representative may sue, to wit, after the parents have failed for six months to sue, and providing that a suit by either shall bar the other "either under this section or under the succeeding section."

As stated by this court: "The sole purpose and effect of this statute was to extend the right already lodged in the personal representative, to the father, and in certain contingencies to the mother" (Lovell v. De Bardelaben C. & I. Co., 90 Ala. 16, 7 So. 757); and we may add that the provisos, in various forms, were evidently to make it clear that in thus conferring the right on the parent it should not create a multiplicity of suits on the same cause of action, but the policy was and is that, as the parent is supposed to be the one having the greatest interest, to let the parent have the direction and control of the entire matter. If the parent prefers to bring an action for his own benefit, let him do so; if not, let him turn it over to the administrator, and said administrator may then bring any form of action that may seem best to him. The last clause of the statute as it now stands was evidently added out of abundant precaution; inasmuch as the Homicide Act is (under our decisions) sui generis, it might be thought that the general rule of the preceding statute did not apply to it.

The appellant suggests that our decision in Williams v. S. & N. Ala. R. R. Co., 91 Ala. 635, 9 So. 77, that the damages in suits under section 2485, Code of 1907, are compensatory only, is erroneous; that the damages should be the same as under the succeeding (Homicide) statute.

It is true that this court has recently held that the expression in the Williams Case is a dictum, and not binding; also that, in suits under said section 2485, the damages are punitive and not compensatory. L. & N. R. R. Co. v. Bogue, 58 So. 392. The writer, on careful examination does not agree with the conclusion in that case, because he does not see how the remark in the Williams Case can be said to be dictum, when the whole case was before the court, and the remark in question was a part of the instruction of the court to the court below for the trial of the case on reversal; and because, also, after the Williams Case had been quoted with approval in several other cases, the statute has been readopted with that...

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13 practice notes
  • Alabama Co. v. Brown, 6 Div. 135.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • June 30, 1921
    ...141 Ala. 258, 37 So. 395; Woodstock Iron Works v. Kline, supra; Birmingham v. Crane, 175 Ala. 90, 56 So. 723; Hull v. Wimberly Co., 178 Ala. 538, 59 So. 568; Stewart v. L. & N. R. Co., 83 Ala. 493, 4 So. 373; C. & W. R. Co. v. Bradford, 86 Ala. 574, 6 So. 90. Our court has construed the sta......
  • Crowson v. Cody, 3 Div. 730
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • April 8, 1926
    ...to a ground that is well taken. Nat. Park Bk. v. L. & N.R.R. Co., 199 Ala. 192, 196, 74 So. 69; Hull v. Wimberly & Thomas Hdw. Co., 178 Ala. 538, 59 So. 568; Tatum v. Tatum, 111 Ala. 209, 20 So. 341; Old Dominion Copper Min. Co. v. Bigelow, 188 Mass. 315, 74 N.E. 653, 108 Am.St.Rep. 479; Ha......
  • National Park Bank of New York v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 8 Div. 838
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • February 1, 1917
    ...v. Steiner Bros., 152 Ala. 303, 44 So. 562; McDonald et al. v. Pearson, 114 Ala. 630, 641, 21 So. 534; Hull v. Wimberly & Thomas Hdw. Co., 178 Ala. 538, 59 So. 568. The insistence of appellant's counsel is as follows: "In the outset we wish to impress upon the court the complaint under cons......
  • Alabama Power Co. v. Stogner, 8 Div. 347.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • December 14, 1922
    ...78 So. 395; Burnwell Coal Co. v. Setzer, supra; T. C. I. R. Co. v. Herndon, 100 Ala. 451, 14 So. 287; Hull v. Wimberly & Thomas Hdw. Co., 178 Ala. 538, 59 So. 568; L. & N. R. Co. v. Perkins, 1 Ala. App. 376, 56 So. 105; L. R. A. 1916E, 164, n.), and not compensatory, as theretofore held in ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • Alabama Co. v. Brown, 6 Div. 135.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • June 30, 1921
    ...141 Ala. 258, 37 So. 395; Woodstock Iron Works v. Kline, supra; Birmingham v. Crane, 175 Ala. 90, 56 So. 723; Hull v. Wimberly Co., 178 Ala. 538, 59 So. 568; Stewart v. L. & N. R. Co., 83 Ala. 493, 4 So. 373; C. & W. R. Co. v. Bradford, 86 Ala. 574, 6 So. 90. Our court has construed the sta......
  • Crowson v. Cody, 3 Div. 730
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • April 8, 1926
    ...to a ground that is well taken. Nat. Park Bk. v. L. & N.R.R. Co., 199 Ala. 192, 196, 74 So. 69; Hull v. Wimberly & Thomas Hdw. Co., 178 Ala. 538, 59 So. 568; Tatum v. Tatum, 111 Ala. 209, 20 So. 341; Old Dominion Copper Min. Co. v. Bigelow, 188 Mass. 315, 74 N.E. 653, 108 Am.St.Rep. 479; Ha......
  • National Park Bank of New York v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 8 Div. 838
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • February 1, 1917
    ...v. Steiner Bros., 152 Ala. 303, 44 So. 562; McDonald et al. v. Pearson, 114 Ala. 630, 641, 21 So. 534; Hull v. Wimberly & Thomas Hdw. Co., 178 Ala. 538, 59 So. 568. The insistence of appellant's counsel is as follows: "In the outset we wish to impress upon the court the complaint under cons......
  • Alabama Power Co. v. Stogner, 8 Div. 347.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • December 14, 1922
    ...78 So. 395; Burnwell Coal Co. v. Setzer, supra; T. C. I. R. Co. v. Herndon, 100 Ala. 451, 14 So. 287; Hull v. Wimberly & Thomas Hdw. Co., 178 Ala. 538, 59 So. 568; L. & N. R. Co. v. Perkins, 1 Ala. App. 376, 56 So. 105; L. R. A. 1916E, 164, n.), and not compensatory, as theretofore held in ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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