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The State may impose involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime, but it may not compel one man to labor for another in payment of a debt, by punishing him as a criminal if he does not perform the service or pay the debt.
What the State may not do directly it may not do indirectly. If it can not punish the servant as a criminal for the mere failure or refusal to serve without paying his debt, it is not permitted to accomplish the same result by creating a statutory presumption which, upon proof of no other fact, exposes him to conviction and punishment. Without imputing any actual motive to oppress, we must consider the natural operation of the statute here in question (Henderson v. New York (Henderson v. Wickham), 92 U. S. p. 268, 23 L. ed. 547), and it is apparent that it furnishes a convenient instrument for the coercion which the Constitution and the act of Congress forbid; an instrument of compulsion peculiarly effective as against the poor and the ignorant, its most likely victims. There is no more important concern than to safeguard the freedom of labor upon which alone can enduring prosperity be based. The provision designed to secure it would soon become a barren form if it were possible to establish a statutory presumption of this sort, and to hold over the heads of laborers the threat of punishment for crime, under the name of fraud, but merely upon evidence of failure to work out their debts. The act of Congress deprives of effect all legislative measures of any State through which, directly or indirectly, the prohibited thing, to wit, compulsory service to secure the payment of a debt, may be established or maintained; and we conclude that section 4730, as amended, of the Code of Alabama, in so far as it makes the refusal or failure to perform the act or service, without refunding the money or paying for the property, prima facie evidence of the commission received of the crime which'the section defines, is in conflict with the thirteenth amendment, and the legislation authorized by that amendment, and is therefore invalid.
EMPLOYERS' LIABILITY-MINE REGULATIONS-DISOBEDIENCE BY EMPLOYERS-ASSUMPTION OF RISK-NEGLIGENCE OF LICENSED EMPLOYEES-Poli v. Numa Block Coal Co., Supreme Court of Iowa, 127 Northwestern Reporter, page 1105.—Poli was an employee of the company named, his duty being to push loaded cars from the tracks at the foot of the shaft into the cage for hoisting. A statute of the State of Iowa, section 2489 of the Code, requires all cages to have proper covers overhead. The cover in this case was insufficient, so that substances from above could fall into the cage. During his employment Poli was struck on the hand by a lump of coal falling from above, breaking his hand and leaving it permanently crippled. The company contended that Poli assumed the risks of his employment under the existing circumstances. On this point Judge Weaver, who delivered the opinion of the court, said:
Notwithstanding the absolute liberty with which every individual is legally endowed to enter into contract for his personal labor or service and his equal legal right to abandon such service at any time subject only to liability for damages in case such act be not justified, it is nevertheless true in practical life that poverty, scarcity of employment, dependent family, and other circumstances often impose moral compulsion upon the laborer to accept employment upon such terms and under such conditions as are offered him, and it is in recognition of this fact, as well as the further facts, that society has a direct interest in preserving the lives and promoting the wellbeing of all persons engaged in productive industry that laws have been enacted to protect them against unnecessary hazard of injury by failure of employers to exercise proper care for their safety. To say that the legislature in enacting these measures of protection which in some degree equalize the advantages of employer and employee and afford a needed protection to the persons and lives of the latter intended that a master might violate the statute to the injury or death of his servant, and then escape liability by pleading and proving that his offense against the law was habitual, obstinate, and notorious, is inconsistent with justice and, it is hardly extravagant to say, repugnant to good morals. Such a rule offers a premium to contemptuous disregard of the statute, and robs it substantially of all value to the class in whose interest it was enacted. These statutes being to a great extent the product of comparatively recent legislation, it is only natural that the expressed views of the courts of different jurisdictions have not been entirely harmonious with respect to their operation and effect, but the decided weight of the precedents supports the view we have above indicated that, where the negligence charged constitutes the violation of a statute enacted for the servant's benefit, the master can not avail himself of the plea of assumption of risk against the consequences of his own wrong.
It follows that, in so far as the negligence charged in the case at bar was a violation of an express and specific statutory regulation, the appellant can not avail itself of the plea of the assumption of risk in an action for resulting injury to a servant for whose protection the law was enacted.
Another contention of the company was that it was not liable for the negligence of the engineers and pit bosses, who were licensed by the State and whose employment was mandatory to the extent that only licensed persons of these classes could be employed and that such persons must occupy their respective positions, the ground being taken that they were in a sense officers of the State. As to this Judge Weaver said:
The proposition does not appeal to us as being reasonable or sound. The statute is not intended to relieve the mine operator from any of his common-law liabilities, but rather to add thereto by imposing upon him certain specific duties intended to safeguard the persons and lives of his servants who are engaged in a work which exposes them to many dangers. The licensed engineer and licensed pit boss so far as their work or duty pertain to the nondelegable obligations of the master are none the less his representatives because the law requires them to possess certain prescribed qualifications. As we have already said, the negligence here complained of, being one which pertains to or inheres in the construction of the shaft or cage,
sarily the negligence of the owner, and responsibility therefor can not be shifted to the engineer or to any other officer or servant. The law cited by counsel which compels the master of a ship to employ a licensed pilot and under which there have been decisions which relieve the shipowner from the consequences of the pilot's negligence or incompetence are not in point. If the shipowner sends to sea a vessel of such defective construction that it sinks while it is being taken out of the harbor, no one would contend that he is relieved from responsibility for his negligence because a licensed pilot was in charge when the disaster occurred.
EMPLOYERS' LIABILITY-RAILROAD COMPANIES-FELLOW-SERVANT ACT-DEATH-SURVIVAL OF ACTION-Sumner v. Missouri Pacific Railway Co., Kansas City (Mo.) Court of Appeals, 132 Southwestern Reporter, page 32.—This was an action by T. C. Sumner and his wife against the company named to recover damages for the death of their minor son who was piloting trains over a washed-out section of the road following a period of high water. The law of the State (Revised Statutes 1899, section 2873) makes railroad companies liable for damages sustained by any employee while engaged in operating the road by reason of the negligence of any other employee, and it was under this statute that the action was brought. Sumner and his wife were nonsuited in the court below and appealed, the appeal resulting in the judgment of the lower court being affirmed. The grounds of this conclusion appear in the following quotation from the opinion of the court as delivered by Judge Broaddus:
Whether the death of deceased was occasioned by the negligence of the engineer and fireman in charge of the engine or either of them is immaterial in view of what has been said in two late cases of the Missouri supreme court, viz., Strottman v. Railroad, 211 Mo. 227, 109 S. W. 769, and Broadwater v. Railroad, 212 Mo. 437, 110 S. W. 1084. It is held in both these cases that, under the fellow-servant act of 1897 (Rev. St. 1899, secs. 2873, 2874, 2875 (Ann. St. 1906, pp. 1655–1657]), a cause of action against a railroad to recover damages for the death of an employee whose death was due to the negligence of a fellow servant in the same employment does not survive to the widow or children or other relatives of the deceased. The engineer and fireman were fellow servants of the deceased, and it follows, if deceased came to his death by reason of their negligence or that of either of them, the cause of action did not survive.
EMPLOYERS' LIABILITY-RAILROAD COMPANIES-FELLOW-SERVANT Law-CONSTITUTIONALITY OF STATUTE— Mobile, Jackson & Kansas City Railroad Co. v. Turnipseed, Supreme Court of the United States, 31 Supreme Court Reporter, page 136.-Ray Hicks, a section foreman in the service of the company named, was killed by the alleged wrongful act of the company, and his administrator sued to
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recover damages under the provisions of section 3559 of the Mississippi Code of 1892 (section 4056 of the Code of 1906). This section is a rescript of section 193 of the Mississippi constitution, and sub stantially abrogates the common-law fellow-servant rule as to employees of railroad corporations. Judgment had been in favor of the administrator in the supreme court of the State of Mississippi, which affirmed the judgment of the circuit court of Newton County. The appeal was taken on the question of the constitutionality of this provision of the laws of the State and of section 1985 of the Code of 1906, which provides that where injury is done to persons or property by the running of locomotives or cars, proof of the injury shall be prima facie evidence of the want of reasonable skill and care on the part of the company. Both these provisions of law were sustained as constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States on grounds that appear in the following quota
in the following quotation from the opinion of that court as delivered by Judge Lurton. Taking up first the fellow-servant provision, attention was called to certain previous decisions in which the law was held applicable to the employees exposed to the hazards of the operation of railroad trains and engines. Continuing, Judge Lurton said:
It is now contended that the provision has been construed in the present case as applicable to an employee not subject to any danger or peril peculiar to the operation of railway trains, and that therefore the reason for such special classification fails, and the provision, so construed and applied, is invalid as a denial of the equal protection of the law.
This contention, shortly stated, comes to this: That although a classification of railway employees may be justified from general considerations based upon the hazardous character of the occupation, such classification becomes arbitrary and a denial of the equal protection of the law the moment it is found to embrace employees not exposed to hazards peculiar to railway operation.
But this court has never so construed the limitation imposed by the fourteenth amendment upon the power of the State to legislate with reference to particular employments as to render ineffectual a general classification resting upon obvious principles of public policy, because it may happen that the classification includes persons not subject to a uniform degree of danger. The insistence, therefore, that legislation in respect of railway employees generally is repugnant to the clause of the Constitution guaranteeing the equal protection of the law, merely because it is not limited to those engaged in the actual operation of trains, is without merit.
The intestate of the defendant in error was not engaged in the actual operation of trains. But he was nevertheless engaged in a service which subjected him to dangers from the operation of trains, and brought him plainly within the general legislative purpose. The case in hand illustrates the fact that such employees, though not directly engaged in the management of trains, are nevertheless within the general line of hazard inherent in the railway business. The deceased was the foreman of a section crew. His business was to keep
the track in repair. He stood by the side of the track to let a train
. pass by; a derailment occurred, and a car fell upon him and crushed out his life.
In the late case of Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Melton, 218 U.S., 36, 30 Sup. Ct. Rep. 676 [Bulletin No. 90, p. 848), an Indiana fellow-servant act was held applicable to a member of a railway construction crew who was injured while engaged in the construction of a coal tipple alongside of the railway track. This whole matter of classification was there considered. Nothing more need be said upon the subject, for the case upon this point is fully covered by the decision referred to.
As to the other point of law involved, it was objected that the statute put railroad companies into a class by themselves and deprived them of the benefit of the general rule of law which places upon one suing in tort the burden of proving not only an injury, but also that the injury was the consequence of negligence in respect of some duty owed to the person injured. In discussing this statute Judge Lurton said:
It is to be primarily observed that the statute is not made applicable to all actions against such companies. Its operation is plainly limited, first, to injuries sustained by passengers or employeos of such companies; second, to injuries arising from the actual operation of railway trains or engines; and third, the effect of evidence showing an injury due to the operation of trains or engines is only “prima facie evidence of the want of reasonable skill and care on the part of the servants of the company in reference to such injury.”
The law of evidence is full of presumptions either of fact or law. The former are, of course, disputable, and the strength of any inference of one fact from proof of another depends upon the generality of the experience upon which it is founded.
Legislation providing that proof of one fact shall constitute prima facie evidence of the main fact in issue is but to enact a rule of evidence, and quite within the general power of government. Statutes, National and State, dealing with such methods of proof in both civil and criminal cases, abound, and the decisions upholding them are numerous. (Cases cited.]
We are not impressed with the argument that the supreme court of Mississippi, in construing the act, has declared that the effect of the statute is to create a presumption of liability, giving to it, thereby, an effect in excess of a mere temporary inference of fact. The statutory effect of the rule is to provide that evidence of an injury arising from the actual operation of trains shall create an inference of negligence, which is the main fact in issue. The only legal effect of this inference is to cast upon the railroad company the duty of producing some evidence to the contrary. When that is done, the inference is at an end, and the question of negligence is one for the jury, upon all of the evidence.' In default of such evidence, the defendant, in a civil case, must lose, for the prima facie case is enough as matter of law.
The statute does not, therefore, deny the equal protection of the law, or otherwise fail in due process of law, because it creates a presumption of liability, since its operation is only to supply an inference