ePub 版

on the workmen least able to bear it, and brings many of them and their families to want."

This indictment of the old system is followed by a statement of the anticipated benefits under the new statute as follows: "These results can, we think, be best avoided by compelling the employer to share the accident burden in intrinsically dangerous trades, since by fixing the price of his product the shock of the accident may be borne by the community. In those employments which have not so great an element of danger, in which, speaking generally, there is no such imperative demand for the exercise of the police power of the State for the safeguarding of its workers from destitution and its consequences, we recommend, as the first step in this change of system, such amendment of the present law as will do away with some of its unfairness in theory and practice, and increase the workman's chance of recovery under the law. With such changes in the law we couple an elective plan of compensation which, if generally adopted, will do away with many of the evils of the present system. Its adoption will, we believe, be profitable to both employer and employee, and prove to be the simplest way for the State to change its system of liability without disturbance of industrial conditions. Not the least of the motives moving us is the hope that by these means a source of antagonism between employer and employed, pregnant with danger for the State, may be eliminated."

This quoted summary of the report of the commission to the legislature, which clearly and fairly epitomizes what is more fully set forth in the body of the report, is based upon a most voluminous array of statistical tables, extracts from the works of philosophical writers and the industrial laws of many countries, all of which are designed to show that our own system of dealing with industrial accidents is economically, morally and legally unsound. Under our form of government, however, courts must regard all economic, philosophical and moral theories, attractive and desirable though they may be, as subordinate to the primary question whether they can be molded into statutes without infringing upon the letter or spirit of our written constitutions. In that respect we are unlike any of the countries whose industrial laws are referred to as models for our guidance. Practically all of these countries are so-called constitutional monarchies in which, as in England, there is no written constitution, and the Parliament or law-making body is supreme. In our country the Federal and State constitutions are the charters which demark the extent and the limitations of legislative power; and while it is true that the rigidity of a written constitution may at times prove to be a hindrance to the march of progress, yet more often its stability protects the people against the frequent and violent fluctuations of that which, for want of a better name, we call public opinion.

With these considerations in mind we turn to the purely legal phases of the controversy for the purpose of disposing of some things which are incidental to the main question. The new statute, as we have observed, is totally at variance with the common-law theory of the employer's liability. Fault on his part is no longer an element of the employee's right of action. This change necessarily and logically carries with it the abrogation of the "fellow-servant" doctrine, the contributory negligence” rule, and the law relating to the employee's assumption of risks. There can be no doubt that the first two of

85048o-Bull. 92-11-17

these are subjects clearly and fully within the scope of legislative power; and that as to the third, this power is limited to some extent by constitutional provisions.

The “fellow-servant” rule is one of judicial origin engrafted upon the common law for the protection of the master against the consequences of negligence in which he has no part. In its early application to simple industrial conditions it had the support of both reason and justice. By degrees it was extended until it became evident that under the enormous expansion and infinite complexity of our modern industrial conditions the rule gave opportunity, in many instances, for harsh and technical defenses. In recent years it has been much restricted in its application to large corporate and industrial enterprises, and still more recently it has been modified and, to some extent abolished, by the labor law and the employers' liability act.

The law of contributory negligence has the support of reason in any system of jurisprudence in which the fault of one is the basis of liability for injury to another. Under such a system it is at least logical to hold that one who is himself to blame for his injuries should not be permitted to entail the consequences upon another who has not been negligent at all, or whose negligence would not have caused the injury if the one injured had been free from fault. It may be admitted that the reason of the rule is often lost sight of in the effort to apply it to a great variety of practical conditions, and that its effi- . cacy as a rule of justice is much impaired by the lack of uniformity in its administration. In the admiralty branch of the Federal courts, for instance, we have what is known as the rule of comparative negligence under which, when there is negligence on both sides, it is apportioned and a verdict rendered accordingly. In many of the States contributory negligence is a defense which must be pleaded and proved by the defendant, and in some States it has been entirely abrogated by statute. In our own State the plaintiff's freedom from contributory negligence is an essential part of his cause of action which must be affirmatively established by him, except in cases brought by employees under the labor law, by virtue of which the contributory negligence of an employee is now made a defense which must be pleaded and proved by the employer; and under the employers' liability act which provides that the employee's continuance in his employment after he has knowledge of dangerous conditions from whích 'injury may ensue, shall not, as matter of law, constitute contributory negligence.

Under the common law the employee was also held to have assumed the ordinary and obvious risks incident to the employment, as well as the special risks arising out of dangerous conditions which were known and appreciated by him. This doctrine, too, has been modified by statute so that under the labor law and the employers' liability act the employee is presumed to have assented to the necessary risks of the occupation or employment and no others; and these necessary risks are defined as those only which are inherent in the nature of the business and exist after the employer has exercised due care in providing for the safety of his employees, and has complied with the laws affecting or regulating the business or occupation for the greater safety of employees.

We have said enough to show that the statutory modifications of the "fellow-servant” rule and the law of "contributory negligence" are clearly within the legislative power. These doctrines, for they

are nothing more, may be regulated or even abolished. This is true to a limited extent as to the assumption of risk by the employee. In the labor law and the employers' liability act, which define the risks assumed by the employee, there are many provisions which cast upon the employer a great variety of duties and burdens unknown to the common law. These can doubtless be still further multiplied and extended to the point where they deprive the employer of rights guaranteed to him by our constitutions, and there, of course, they must stop, as we shall endeavor to demonstrate later on.

Passing now to the constitutional objections which are presented against the new statute, we will first eliminate those which we regard as clearly or probably untenable. The appellant (company] argues and the respondent (Ives) admits that the new statuté can not be upheld under the reserved power of the legislature to alter and amend charters. It is true that the defendant in the case at bar is a railroad corporation, but the act applies to eight enumerated occupations or industries without regard to the character of the employers. They may be corporations, firms or individuals. Nowhere in the act is there any reference to corporations. The liability sought to be imposed is based upon the nature of the employment and not upon the legal status of the employer. It is, therefore, unnecessary to decide how far corporate liability may be extended under the reserved power to alter or amend charters, except as that question may be incidentally discussed in considering the police power of the State.

The appellant contends that the classification in this statute, of a limited number of employments as dangerous, is fanciful or arbitrary, and is, therefore, repugnant to that part of the fourteenth amendment to the Federal Constitution which guarantees to all our citizens the equal protection of the laws. Classification, for purposes of taxation, or of regulation under the police power, is a legislative function with which the courts have no right to interfere unless it is so clearly arbitrary or unreasonable as to invade some constitutional right. A State may classify persons and objects for the purpose of legislation provided the classification is based on proper and justifiable distinctions (St. John v. New York, 201 U. S. 633; Missouri Pac. Ry. Co. v. Mackey, 127 U. S. 205 [8 Sup. Ct. 1161); Minneapolis & St. L. Ry. Co. v. Herrick, 127 U. S. 210 [8 Sup. Ct. 1176); Chicago, K. & W. R. R. Co.v. Pontius, 157 U. S. 209), and for a purpose within the legislative power. There can be no doubt, we think, that all of the occupations enumerated in the statute are more or less inherently dangerous to a degree which justifies such legislative regulation as is properly within the scope of the police power. We need not look for illustration

or authority outside of the labor law to which this new statute has been added. The whole of that law which precedes the latest addition is devoted to restrictions and regulations imposed upon employers in specified occupations or conditions for the conservation of the health, safety and morals of employees. These restrictions and regulations do not affect all employers alike in all occupations, nor are they designed to have that effect. The mandate of the Federal Constitution is complied with if all who are in a particular class are treated alike. (Missouri Pac. Ry. Co. v. Humes, 115 U. S. 512, 523; Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U. S. 27; Soon Hing v. Crowley, 113 Ú. S. 703; Magoun v. Ill. Trust & Sav. Bank, 170 Ư. S. 283, 294; People ex rel. Hatch v. Reardon, 184 N. Y. 431; People ex rel. Farrington v. Mensching, 187 N. Y. 8, 16), and that, we think, is the effect of this classification.

Another objection urged against the statute is that it violates section 2 of article 1 of our State constitution which provides that “The trial by jury in all cases in which it has been heretofore used shall remain inviolate forever.” This objection is aimed at the provisions of sections 219-2 and 219-d of the statute, which relate to the "scale of compensation" and "settlement of disputes," and has no reference to the fundamental question whether the attempt to impose upon the employer a liability when he is not at fault, constitutes a taking of property, without due process of law. In other words, the objection which we are now considering bears solely upon the question whether the two last-mentioned sections of the statute deprive the employer of the right to have a jury fix the amount which he shall pay when his liability to pay has been determined against him. If these provisions relating to compensation are to be construed as definitely fixing the amount which an employer must pay in every case where his liability is established by the statute, there can be no doubt that they constitute a legislative usurpation of one of the functions of a common-law jury. In all cases where there is a right to trial by jury there are two elements which necessarily enter into a verdict for the plaintiff: 1. The right to recover. 2. The amount of the recovery. It is as much the right of a defendant to have a jury assess the damages claimed against him as it is to have the question of his liability determined by the same body. (East Kingston v. Towle, 48 N. H. 57; Wadsworth v. Union Pacific Ry. Co., 18 Col. 600; Fairchild v. Rich, 68 Vt. 202.). This part of the statute, in its present form, has given rise to conflicting views among the members of the court, and, since the disposition of the questions which it suggests is not necessary to the decision of the case, we do not decide it.

Thus far we have considered only such portions of the statute as we deem to be clearly within the legislatíve power, and one as to which there is difference of opinion. This we have done because we desire to present no purely technical or hypercritical obstacles to any plan for the beneficent reformation of a branch of our jurisprudence in which, it may be conceded, reform is a consummation devoutly to be wished. In this spirit we have called attention to those features of the new statute which might be upheld as consonant with legislative authority under our constitutional limitations, as well as to the sections upon which we are in doubt. We turn now to the two objections which we regard as fatal to its validity.

This legislation is challenged as void under the fourteenth amendment to the Federal Constitution and under section 6, article 1, of our State constitution, which guarantee all persons against deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process of law. We shall not stop to dwell at length upon definitions of "life," "liberty," “property" and "due process of law.” They are simple and comprehensive in themselves and have been so often judicially defined that there can be no misunderstanding as to their meaning. Process of law in its broad sense means law in its regular course of administration through courts of justice, and that is but another way of saying that every man's right to life, liberty and property is to be disposed of in accordance with those ancient and fundamental principles which were in existence when our constitutions were adopted. “Due process of law implies the right of the person affected thereby to be present before the tribunal which pronounces judgment upon the question of life, liberty or property in its most comprehensive sense; to be heard by testimony or otherwise, and to have the right of controverting by proof every material fact which bears upon the question of right in the matter involved. If any question of fact or liability be conclusively presumed against him this is not due process of law." (Ziegler v. S. & N. Ala. R. R. Co., 58 Ala. 594). Liberty has been authoritatively defined as “the right of one to use his faculties in all lawful ways, to live and work where he will, to earn his livelihood in any lawful calling, and to pursue any lawful trade or avocation” (Matter of Jacobs, 98 N. Y. 98, 106); and the right of property as “the right to acquire, possess and enjoy it in any way consistent with the equal rights of others and the just exactions and demands of the State.' (Bertholf v. O'Reilly, 74 N. Y. 509, 515.) The several industries and occupations enumerated in the statute before us are concededly lawful within any of the numerous definitions which might be referred to, and have always been so. They are, therefore, under the constitutional protection. One of the inalienable rights of every citizen is to hold and enjoy his property until it is taken from him by due process of law. When our constitutions were adopted it was the law of the land that no man who was without fault or negligence could be held liable in damages for injuries sustained by another. That is still the law, except as to the employers enumerated in the new statute, and as to them it provides that they shall be liable to their employees for personal injury by accident to any workman arising out of and in the course of the employment which is caused in whole or in part, or is contributed to, by a necessary risk or danger of the employment or one inherent in the nature thereof, except that there shall be no liability in any case where the injury is caused in whole or in part by the serious and willful misconduct of the injured workman. It is conceded that this is a liability unknown to the common law and we think it plainly constitutes a deprivation of liberty and property under the Federal and State constitutions, unless its imposition can be justified under the police power which will be discussed under a separate head. In arriving at this conclusion we do not overlook the cogent economic and sociological arguments which are urged in support of the statute. There can be no doubt as to the theory of this law. It is based upon the proposition that the inherent risks of an employment should in justice be placed upon the shoulders of the employer, who can protect himself against loss by insurance and by such an addition to the price of his wares as to cast the burden ultimately upon the consumer; that indemnity to an injured employee should be as much a charge upon the business as the cost of replacing or repairing disabled or defective machinery, appliances or tools; that, under our present system, the loss falls immediately upon the employee who is almost invariably unable to bear it, and ultimately upon the community which is taxed for the support of the indigent; and that our present system is uncertain, unscientific and wasteful, and fosters a spirit of antagonism between employer and employee which it is to the interests of the State to remove. We have already admitted the strength of this appeal to a recognized and widely prevalent sentiment, but we think it is an appeal which must be made to the

« 上一頁繼續 »