Slater v. Advance Thresher Co.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtBROWN
Citation107 N.W. 133,97 Minn. 305
PartiesSLATER v. ADVANCE THRESHER CO.
Decision Date16 February 1906

97 Minn. 305
107 N.W. 133

SLATER
v.
ADVANCE THRESHER CO.

Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Feb. 16, 1906.


Appeal from District Court, Clay County; L. L. Baxter, Judge.

Action by Frank L. Slater against the Advance Thresher Company. Verdict for plaintiff. From an order denying a new trial, defendant appeals. Reversed.


Syllabus by the Court

The master is not liable for injuries occasioned to a third person by the negligence of his servant while the latter is engaged in some act beyond the scope of his employment, for his own or the purposes of another, although he may be using the instrumentalities furnished by the master with which to perform his duties as servant.

The expression ‘in the course of his employment’ means, in contemplation of law, ‘while engaged in the service of the master,’ and nothing more. It is not synonymous with ‘during the period covered by his employment.’

Defendant is a Michigan corporation, engaged in the manufacture and sale of farm implements. Gregory was its general manager for the Northwest, with headquarters at Minneapolis, this state, and Nichols was its general agent for the state of North Dakota, and resided at Fargo, in that state. Defendant furnished its agent at Fargo an automobile to facilitate in the performance of the duties of his agency, which he used whenever necessary. After business hours on the day of the injury complained of in this action, the two agents, Gregory and Nichols, took the automobile so furnished Nichols by the defendant, and started for Moorhead, this state, just across the river from Fargo, on a mission purely personal to themselves and wholly independent from the affairs and business of defendant. While so engaged a team of horses belonging to plaintiff became frightened by the alleged negligent manner in which the agents operated the automobile, and this action was brought against the defendant to recover damages occasioned thereby, on the theory that it was liable for the negligence of its agents. Held that, on the principle of the law above stated, defendant is not liable for the wrongful acts of the agents; the same not having been committed in the course of their employment.


[107 N.W. 134]

Wm. R. Tillotson (H. R. Turner, of counsel), for appellant.

C. A. Nye, for respondent.


BROWN, J.

The facts in this case are as follows: Defendant is a corporation organized under the laws of the state of Michigan, engaged in the manufacture and sale of farm machinery. Walter Gregory is its generel manager for the Northwest, with headquarters at the city of Minneapolis, this state, and W. L. Nichols is its general agent for the state of North Dakota, residing at Fargo, in that state. Defendant furnished its agent at Fargo, to facilitate the discharge of his duties, an automobile, which he used and operated whenever convenient in his work. After business hours on the day of the injury complained of, the two agents, Gregory and Nichols, took the automobile so furnished Nichols by defendant and started for Moorhead, a city in this state just across the river from Fargo, on a mission and for a purpose purely personal to themselves, and wholly distinct from the affairs and business of the defendant. Just as the agents with the automobile reached the bridge between the two cities, plaintiff's horses, which he was driving, became frightened by reason, as alleged in the complaint, of the negligent manner in which the agent operated the machine, and ran away, injuring plaintiff and damaging the buggy to which they were attached. This action was brought against defendant to recover for the injuries so occasioned, on the theory that it was liable for the negligent conduct of its agents. At the close of the trial in the court below, defendant requested that a verdict be instructed in its favor, which was refused; the case was submitted to the jury and a verdict returned for plaintiff for the sum of $1,000. On motion for a new trial the verdict was reduced to $500 by order of the court, and a new trial denied, from which defendant appealed. The assignment of error to the effect that the court erred in not directing a verdict for defendant is the only one requiring consideration, and that presents the question whether on the facts stated, which are not in dispute, defendant is liable for the negligence of its agents in the operation of the automobile under the circumstances and on the occasion stated.

1. It is elementary that the master is not liable for injuries occasioned to a third person by the negligence of his servant, while the latter is engaged in some act beyond the scope of his employment, for his own or the purposes of another, although he may be using the instrumentalities furnished him by the master with which to perform the ordinary duties of his employment, or, as expressed in Shearman & Redfield on Neg. § 63, ‘that if the act complained of be committed by the servant while at liberty from the service of the master and while pursuing his own interests exclusively, there can be no question of the master's freedom from liability, even though the injury would not have been committed without the facilities afforded the servant by his relation to the master.’ The law on the subject is clearly stated in the case of Morier v. Railway Co., 31 Minn. 351, 17 N. W. 952,47 Am. Rep. 793, where the court said: ‘The doctrine of the liability of the master for the wrongful acts of his servant is predicated upon the maxims, ‘respondeat superior’ and ‘qui facit per alium facit per se.’ In fact, it rests upon the doctrine of agency. Therefore, the universal test of the master's liability is whether there was authority, express or implied, for doing the act; this is, was it one done in the course and within the scope of the servant's employment? If it be done in the course and within the scope of the employment, the master will be liable for the act, whether negligent, fraudulent, deceitful, or an act of positive malfeasance. Smith on Master & Servant, 151. But a master is not liable for every wrong which the servant may commit during the continuance of the employment. The liability can only occur when that which is done is within the real or apparent scope of the master's business. Beyond the scope of his employment his servant is as much a stranger to his master as any third person. The master is only responsible so long as the servant can be said to be doing the act, in the doing of which he is guilty of negligence, in the course of his employment. A master is not responsible for any act or omission of his servant which is not connected with the business in which he serves him, and does not happen in the course of his employment. And in determining whether a particular act is done in the course of the servant's employment it is proper first to inquire whether the servant was at the time engaged in

[107 N.W. 135]

serving his master. If the act be done while the servant is at liberty from the service and pursuing his own ends exclusively, the master is not responsible. If the servant was, at the time when the injury was inflicted, acting for himself and as his own master pro tempore, the master is not liable. If the servant step aside from his master's business, for however short a time, to do an act not connected with such business, the relation...

To continue reading

Request your trial
109 practice notes
  • Kohlman v. Hyland, No. 4992.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • October 16, 1926
    ...master's work. * * * The rule has been applied by this court in all automobile cases heretofore presented. Slater v. Advance Thresher Co., 97 Minn. 305, 107 N. W. 133, 5 L. R. A. (N. S.) 598;Ploetz v. Holt, 124 Minn. 169, 144 N. W. 745;Kayser v. Van Nest, 125 Minn. 277, 146 N. W. 1091 [51 L......
  • Stewart v. Cary Lumber Co
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • November 20, 1907
    ...Healy v. Patterson, 123 Iowa, 73, 98 N. W. 976; Ry. Co. v. West, 125 Ill. 320, 17 N. E. 788, 8 Am. St. Rep. 380; Slater v. Thresher Co., 97 Minn. 305, 107 N. W. 133, 5 L. R. A. (N. S.) 598; Smith v. Ry. Co., 95 Ky. 11, 23 S. W. 652, 22 L. R. A. 72; Porter v. R. R., 41 Iowa, 358; Ch. & N. W.......
  • Boes v. Howell, No. 2123.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • May 28, 1918
    ...Mass. 269, 97 N. E. 761; Hartley v. Miller et al., 165 Mich. 115, 130 N. W. 336, 33 L. R. A. (N. S.) 81; Slater v. Advance Thresher Co., 97 Minn. 305, 107 N. W. 133, 5 L. R. A. (N. S.) 598; Daily v. Maxwell, 152 Mo. App. 415, 133 S. W. 355; Hall v. Compton, 130 Mo. App. 675, 108 S. W. 1122;......
  • Firemen's Fund Ins. Co. v. Schreiber
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 3, 1912
    ...to appreciate the meaning of “scope of the employment.” It is not, as said by the Minnesota Court in Slater v. Advance Thresher Co., 97 Minn. 305, 107 N. W. 133, “synonymous with during the period of the employment.” But, as indicated in Schultz v. La Crosse City R. Co., 133 Wis. 420, 113 N......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
109 cases
  • Kohlman v. Hyland, No. 4992.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • October 16, 1926
    ...master's work. * * * The rule has been applied by this court in all automobile cases heretofore presented. Slater v. Advance Thresher Co., 97 Minn. 305, 107 N. W. 133, 5 L. R. A. (N. S.) 598;Ploetz v. Holt, 124 Minn. 169, 144 N. W. 745;Kayser v. Van Nest, 125 Minn. 277, 146 N. W. 1091 [51 L......
  • Stewart v. Cary Lumber Co
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • November 20, 1907
    ...Healy v. Patterson, 123 Iowa, 73, 98 N. W. 976; Ry. Co. v. West, 125 Ill. 320, 17 N. E. 788, 8 Am. St. Rep. 380; Slater v. Thresher Co., 97 Minn. 305, 107 N. W. 133, 5 L. R. A. (N. S.) 598; Smith v. Ry. Co., 95 Ky. 11, 23 S. W. 652, 22 L. R. A. 72; Porter v. R. R., 41 Iowa, 358; Ch. & N. W.......
  • Boes v. Howell, No. 2123.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • May 28, 1918
    ...Mass. 269, 97 N. E. 761; Hartley v. Miller et al., 165 Mich. 115, 130 N. W. 336, 33 L. R. A. (N. S.) 81; Slater v. Advance Thresher Co., 97 Minn. 305, 107 N. W. 133, 5 L. R. A. (N. S.) 598; Daily v. Maxwell, 152 Mo. App. 415, 133 S. W. 355; Hall v. Compton, 130 Mo. App. 675, 108 S. W. 1122;......
  • Firemen's Fund Ins. Co. v. Schreiber
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 3, 1912
    ...to appreciate the meaning of “scope of the employment.” It is not, as said by the Minnesota Court in Slater v. Advance Thresher Co., 97 Minn. 305, 107 N. W. 133, “synonymous with during the period of the employment.” But, as indicated in Schultz v. La Crosse City R. Co., 133 Wis. 420, 113 N......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT