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JAMISON v. ENCARNACION, 281 U.S. 635 (1930)

U.S. Supreme Court

JAMISON v. ENCARNACION, 281 U.S. 635 (1930)

281 U.S. 635

JAMISON et al.
No. 390.

Argued April 22, 1930.
Decided May 26, 1930.

Messrs. Theodore H. Lord, of Brooklyn, N. Y., and James B. Henney and Daniel Miner, both of New York City, for petitioners.[ Jamison v. Encarnacion 281 U.S. 635 (1930) ]

[281 U.S. 635, 637]   Mr. William S. Butler, of Brooklyn, N. Y., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an action brought in the Supreme Court of New York by respondent, a longshoreman, against William A. Jamison, an employing stevedore, to recover damages for personal injuries. Plaintiff was employed by defendant as a member of a crew loading a barge lying at Brooklyn in the navigable waters of the United States. One Curren was the forman in charge of the crew. While plaintiff was upon the barge engaged with [281 U.S. 635, 638]   others in loading it, the foreman struck and seriously injured him.

The evidence showed that the foreman was authorized by the employer to direct the crew and to keep them at work. Plaintiff's evidence was sufficient to warrant a finding that the foreman assaulted him without provocation, and to hurry him about the work. The trial judge instructed the jury that the defendant would not be liable if the foreman assaulted plaintiff by reason of a personal difference but that, if the foreman, in the course of his employment, committed an unprovoked assault upon plaintiff in furtherance of defendant's work, plaintiff might recover. The jury returned a verdict for $2,500 in favor of plaintiff, and the court gave him judgment for that amount.

The case was taken to the Appellate Division and there plaintiff invoked in support of the judgment section 33 of the Merchant Marine Act, 1920, 46 U. S. C., 688 (46 USCA 688), and the Federal Employers' Liability Act of April 22, 1908, 45 U. S. C., 51-59 (45 USCA 51-59). The court, 224 App. Div. 260, 230 N. Y. S. 16, held that plaintiff's injury was not the result of any negligence within the meaning of the latter act, and reversed the judgment.

The Court of Appeals, 251 N. Y. 218, page 223, 167 N. E. 422, 423, held that the Federal Employers' Liability Act applies and, after quoting the language of this court in International Stevedoring Co. v. Haverty, 272 U.S. 50, 52 , 47 S. Ct. 19, said: 'As the word 'seamen' in the act ( 33, Merchant Marine Act) includes 'stevedores,' so the word 'negligence' ( 1, Federal Employers' Liability Act) should ... include 'misconduct." It reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division and affirmed that of the Supreme Court.

Section 33 of the Merchant Marine Act (46 USCA 688) provides:

Section 1 of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 USCA 51) provides:

Plaintiff was a seaman within the meaning of section 33 ( International Stevedoring Co. v. Haverty, supra) and, as he sustained the injuries complained of while loading a vessel in navigable waters, the case is governed by the maritime law as modified by the acts of Congress above referred to. Northern Coal Co. v. Strand, 278 U.S. 142 , 49 S. Ct. 88; Panama R. R. Co. v. Johnson, 264 U.S. 375 , 44 S. Ct. 391. He is entitled to recover if, within the meaning of section 1, his injuries resulted from the negligence of the foreman.

The question is whether 'negligence' as there used includes the assault in question. The measure was adopted for the relief of a large class of persons employed in hazardous work in the service described. It abrogates the common-law rule that makes every employee bear the risk of injury or death through the fault or negligence of fellow servants, and applies the principle of respondeat superior (section 1), eliminates the defense of contributory negligence and substitutes of contributory negligence and substitutes a rule of comparative negligence (section 3 (45 USCA 53)), abolishes the defense of assumption of risk, where the violation of a statute enacted for the safety of employees is a contributing cause (section 4 (45 USCA 54)), and denounces all contracts, rules, and regulations calculated to exempt the employer from liability created by the act (section 5 (45 USCA 55)). [281 U.S. 635, 640]   The reports of the House and Senate committees having the bill in charge condemn the fellow-servant rule as operating unjustly when applied to modern conditions in actions against carriers to recover damages for injury or death of their employees, and show that a complete abrogation of that rule was intended. 1 The act, like an earlier similar one that was held invalid because it included subjects beyond the reach of Congress,2 is intended to stimulate carriers to greater diligence for the safety of their employees and of the persons and property of their patrons. Second Employers' Liability Case, 223 U.S. 1, 51 , 32 S. Ct. 169, 38 L. R. A. (N. S.) 44; Minneapolis, etc., R. Co. v. Rock, 279 U.S. 410, 413 , 49 S. Ct. 363.

The rule that statutes in derogation of the common law are to be strictly construed does not require such an adherence to the letter as would defeat an obvious legislative purpose or lessen the scope plainly intended to be given to the measure. Johnson v. Southern Pacific Co., 196 U.S. 1, 17 , 18 S., 25 S. Ct. 158; Gooch v. Oregon short Line R. R. Co., 258 U.S. 22, 24 , 42 S. Ct. 192; Barrett v. Van Pelt, 268 U.S. 85, 90 , 45 S. Ct. 437; Johnson v. United States (C. C. A.) 163 F. 30; 32, 18 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1194. Cf. Hackfeld & Co. v. United States, 197 U.S. 442 , 449 et seq., 32, 18 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1194. Cf. Hackfeld & be narrowed by refined reasoning or for the sake of giving 'negligence' a technically restricted meaning. It is to be construed liberally to fulfill the purposes for which it was enacted, and to that end the word may be read to include all the meanings given to it by courts, and within the word as ordinarily used. Miller v. Robertson, 266 U.S. 243, 248 , 250 S., 45 S. Ct. 73.

As the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 USCA 51-59) does not create liability without fault (Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Horton, 233 U.S. 492, 501 , 34 S. Ct. 635, L. R. A. 1915C, 1, Ann. Cas. 1915B, 475), it may reasonably be construed in contrast with proposals and enactments to make employers [281 U.S. 635, 641]   liable, in the absence of any tortious act, for the payment of compensation for personal injuries or death of employees arising in the course of their employment.

Judgment affirmed.


[ Footnote 1 ] Senate Report No. 460, pp. 1-2, 60th Congress, 1st Session. House of Representatives Report No. 1386, p. 2, 60th Congress, 1st Session.

[ Footnote 2 ] Act of June 11, 1906, 34 Stat. 232, held unconstitutional in Employers' Liability Cases, 207 U.S. 463 , 28 S. Ct. 141.

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