Todd v. Easton Furniture Mfg. Co.

Decision Date06 February 1925
Docket Number69.
Citation128 A. 42,147 Md. 352
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Appeal from Circuit Court, Talbot County; Thomas J. Keating, Judge.

"To be officially reported."

Proceeding under the Workmen's Compensation Act by Priscilla Todd for the death of Charles W. Todd, her husband, opposed by the Easton Furniture Manufacturing Company, employer, and the American Mutual Liability Insurance Company, insurer. From a decree of the circuit court, reversing the order of the State Industrial Accident Commission, granting an award, claimant appeals. Reversed, and new trial awarded.

Argued before BOND, C.J., and PATTISON, URNER, OFFUTT, and WALSH JJ.

Webster S. Blades, of Baltimore, and Charles J. Butler, of Easton (Blades, Rosenfeld & Frederick, of Baltimore, on the brief) for appellant.

Walter L. Clark, of Baltimore (Bowie & Clark, of Baltimore, on the brief), for appellees.


The appellant is the widow of Charles W. Todd, who was murdered while engaged in the performance of his duty as night watchman at the appellee's furniture plant. Compensation was awarded the widow by the state Industrial Accident Commission in consequence of its determination that the death of her husband "arose out of and in the course of his employment." On appeal by the employer to the circuit court for Talbot county, the order of the Commission was reversed in pursuance of a directed verdict of the jury by which submitted issues of fact, as to whether the death of Todd resulted from an injury which arose out of and in the course of his employment, were answered in the negative. The instruction requiring such a verdict was granted upon the stated ground that, according to the uncontradicted evidence "the deceased employee was intentionally killed by Thomas Boardley, not a coemployee, in a quarrel over a dog."

It appears from the record that about half past 6 o'clock on the evening of May 16, 1923, Todd, who had gone on duty for the night at half past 5, was attacked by Boardley because of the latter's suspicion, apparently unfounded, that Todd had poisoned his dog, but the intervention of other persons to whom Todd appealed for protection, prevented the continuance of the assault. Boardley went away, threatening further violence against Todd, and about half an hour later was seen going towards the furniture factory, and was shortly afterwards observed coming from that direction, when he was heard to say, "I have got the ______ ______." The bleeding and lifeless body of Todd was found on the factory premises at a point in the course of his customary passage from one of the buildings to another in the discharge of his duty as a watchman. His clock, suspended from his neck, registered seven minutes past 7 as the time of his visit to the building from which he was proceeding when he was killed. It was between half past 7 and 8 o'clock when his dead body was discovered. His lantern was lying near him on the ground. There was no evidence of any quarrel or fight at the time of the homicide. It was stipulated in the record that Boardley was prosecuted for the murder of Todd, was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and was sentenced to imprisonment for life.

The question we are to decide is whether, in view of the uncontradicted evidence tending to prove that Todd was attacked and murdered while performing his regular duty as a night watchman, and that the motive for the murder was personal animosity, the court below was justified in directing a verdict that his fatal injury did not arise out of or in the course of his employment in the appellee's service. In deciding that question, we must consider the effect given by statute to the determination of the state Industrial Accident Commission upon the issue of fact presented in the circuit court on appeal.

The Workmen's Compensation Law (Code, art. 101, § 56) provides that, upon the hearing of any appeal from an order of the Commission, any issue of fact involved in the case shall, on motion of either party, be submitted to the jury. By the same section it is provided:

"In all court proceedings under or pursuant to this article, the decision of the Commission shall be prima facie correct and the burden of proof shall be upon the party attacking the same."

This provision was held not to prevent the court from deciding the issue as one of law in a case submitted to the court, sitting as a jury, upon an agreed statement of facts. Harrison v. Central Construction Co., 135 Md. 170, 108 A. 874. In the course of the opinion delivered by Judge Burke in the case just cited, it was said:

"The question as to whether an injury arose out of or in the course of the employment is ordinarily, like negligence or want of probable cause, a mixed question of law and fact; but when the facts have been ascertained and agreed upon by the parties, or are undisputed and there is no dispute as to the inferences to be drawn from the facts, the question becomes one of law, and may be decided by the court."

In that case it was stated in the agreement as to the facts that the employee claiming compensation was injured while on his way from Baltimore, where he lived, to his work for a construction company engaged in building Edgewood Arsenal for the United States government at Magnolia, Md.; that he regularly traveled without charge on a work train provided by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company under an agreement with the government; that the claimant received no pay for the usual time of traveling to the place of work; and that he was injured while boarding a train to which it was necessary for him to be transferred on his way to Magnolia, because of the fact that the train he first entered, under mistaken directions, did not stop at that point. To the stipulated facts this court applied the rule that an injury to an employee is to be regarded as having arisen out of and in the course of his employment if it occurs while he is proceeding to the place of work in compliance with a contract of employment providing for his transportation. The case as presented by agreement admitted of no dispute as to any inferences of fact, and simply required a decision as to whether a particular rule of law should be applied.

The present case was not submitted to the court upon an agreed statement of facts. It was tried before a jury upon the testimony of witnesses, and, while the evidence was uncontradicted, it admitted of an inference of fact opposed to that embodied in the instruction by which the verdict of the jury was controlled. The instruction stated that the watchman was killed "in a quarrel over a dog," but the proof does not prevent the inference that he may have been attacked suddenly and without warning as he emerged from one of the buildings which it was necessary for him to visit and guard. If he was aware of the approach and hostile purpose of the assailant, the duty which he had assumed "to keep off all trespassers" might have deterred him from seeking...

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  • Montgomery Cnty. v. Maloney
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 7, 2020
    ...a fact that appellant ‘did not receive an injury ... in the course of his employment ....’ " (emphasis added)); Todd v. Easton Furniture Co. , 147 Md. 352, 359, 128 A. 42 (1925) (question of whether employee's injury "arose out of an in the course of his employment" was appropriate for reso......
  • O'Dell v. Lost Trail
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    • December 14, 1936
    ... ... J. L. 228, 100 A. 234; King v ... Camden Paving Co., 168 A. 167; Todd v. Easton ... Furniture Mfg. Co., 147 Md. 352, 128 A. 42; Spang v ... ...
  • Moore v. Clarke
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • November 12, 1936
    ... ... court." In Todd v. Easton Furniture Mfg. Co., ... 147 Md. 352, 128 A. 42, 43, while the ... ...
  • Krell v. Maryland Drydock Co.
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    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • March 2, 1945
    ... ... v. Sparks, 137 Md. 117, 111 ... A. 769; Todd v. Easton Furniture Co., 147 Md. 352, ... 128 A. 42; Atlantic Refining ... be drawn from those facts. Todd v. Easton Furniture Mfg. Co., ... supra; Schemmel v. Gatch & Sons, supra, 164 Md. 673, ... ...
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