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Rupp v. Shaffer.
2. ADMISSION OF SUCH EVIDENCE IS PREJUDICIAL ERROR.
The admission of evidence in an action for damages for wrongful death, as to the master's procuring an insurance policy indemnifying him against loss by reason of damages recovered against him for injury to employees in his service, and the charge to the jury that this evidence was submitted, not for the purpose of en arging or affecting the liability of the master, but as a circumstance tending to make the master less careful and diligent of the safety of his employees than he would have been, did he not have the insurance are improper and constitute prejudicial error.
8. SPECIAL REQUESTS-GENERAL CHARGE.
The court having given special charges as requested after the close of the evidence and as authorized by Sec. 5190, Rev. Stat., is not prevented from treating the same subject in a general charge, but it is manifestly contrary to the statute for the court in a general charge to repeat the special requests and then proceed to qualify, modify or in any manner explain the same.
4 CHARGE Should be Construed as a Whole.
A charge should be construed as a whole and the fact that in an action for death from defective machinery a special paragraph of the charge, standing alone, does not completely state the law, as where it omitted to indicate that in order to relieve the servant of contributory negligence or assumption of risk it should appear that the master promised to repair the machinery, etc., a verdict will not be disturbed if the trial judge in other parts of the charge correctly states the law in that particular.
5. SPECIAL FINDINGS SHOULD NOT BE TWISTED to agree with VerdICT. It would be improper for a trial judge to so direct a jury, in regard to the manner of making special findings, that the latter might be permitted to think that, for the purpose of sustaining a general verdict which they might desire to bring in, they would be permitted to make answers to special findings with a view, primarily, to their consistency with the general verdict. The special findings should be independent and truthful and then, if inconsistent with the general verdict, will control and the court may give judgment accordingly.
HEARD ON Error.
Morey, Andrews & Morey, for plaintiff in error:
It was error to admit the plaintiff's evidence making it appear that the defendant carried an insurance policy indemnifying him against loss by reason of damages, recovered against him for injury to employees in his service, and to instruct the jury that this evidence was submitted to them, not for the purpose of enlarging or affecting the liability to defendant, but as a circumstance which the jury might find tended to make him more careless of the safety of his employees than he would have been had he not felt himself thus indemnified against loss, because (1) the evidence and the court's charge invited the jury to turn their minds from the actualities of the case and enter into the regions of speculation, and suggested to the jury that instead of making the case turn upon whether there was sufficient proof or not of the defendant's negligence, they might surmise that a man carrying an indemnity policy would be likely to be, and that the defendant, therefore, had been careless. And (2), this evidence and the charge of the court suggested that the very fact that defendant below carried an insurance policy, was a matter of reprehension rather than commendation, whereas the law rather conmends an employer for his care in thus providing a tund which enables him to discharge a liability to his employees when such liability arises. Trenton Pass. R. Co. v. Guarantors, etc. Co., 1897; 37 Atl. p. 609 [60 N. J. L., 246]; B. & A. Co. v. Mercantile, etc., Co., 1936: 34 Atl, p. 778 [82 Md., 535; 38 L. R. A., 97], Manley v. Minneapolis Paint Co., 78 N. W., 105 [76 Minn., 169].
Butler Circuit Court.
 The court erred in repeating and materially modifying the instructions which, after the close of the evidence and before argument, at the request of counsel for defendant below, had been given to the jury. Sec. 5190, Rev. Stat.
[3.] The court erred in charging the jury that if the deceased communicated the condition of the machinery to Mr. Rupp or gave him any information that would have caused him as a reasonable man to investigate, and that he thereby might have discovered that the machinery was out of repair and failed to do so, and such failure and disrepair of the machinery was the proximate cause of Mr. Schubert's death, then the plaintiff was entitled to recover.
The law presumes that when a servant has knowledge of defective machinery causing danger, and continues in the master's service, he is guilty of contributory negligence, and although this presumption may be overcome by showing that he complained to the master and that the latter promised to make repairs, still the servant must observe the care commensurate with the danger which he knows exists. Again it is not the servant's complaint, but the master's promise to make repairs that relieves the former from the presumption of contributory negligence on his part. Wood on Master and S., Sec. 379; Ford v. Railroad Co., 110 Mass., p. 240; Knuth v. Elevator Co., 8 Allen, p. 411; Patterson v. Railroad Co., 76 Penn. St., p. 389.
The effect of the charge as given was really a decision by the court. of an issue of fact, and to that extent withdrawing from the jury a very essential controversy in regard to the facts. The real issue was whether or not the defendant was negligent in knowingly maintaining the appa. ratus in the defective condition, and whether the decedent was guilty of contributory negligence in continuing his service with knowledge of the defect, and the fact that he communicated the condition to the master was only one circumstance throwing light upon whether or not he was guilty of contributory negligence, and the whole controversy was a matter upon which the jury should pass. Smiley v. Baker, 83 Fed., Rep., 684, 689: Snow v. Railroad Co., 72 Ill. App., 389; Hough v. Railway Co., 100 J. S., 213 (25 L. C. P., 612); Union Mfg. Co. v. Morrissey, 40 Ohio St., 148; Toledo Stove Co. v. Reep, 9 Circ. Dec., 468 (18 R. 58).
Shepherd & Shaffer, for defendant in error.
In the court below the plaintiff's decedent was the servant, and the defendant the raster and the proprietor of a slaughter house. The former had sole charge of the process of rendering lard and of the tank
used for that purpose. The tank was cylindrical, eight feet high, about four feet in diameter, standing upright with the bottom of the tank about three feet above the floor. The decedent usually filled this tank, when about to render lard, with fats put in at the top, closed up the tank, and the contents were cooked by steam, then drawn out through a pipe and the cracklings were then taken out through an orifice at the bottom into a box receptacle about eight feet long, four feet wide and two and one-half c. three feet high. On November 6, 1899, while the cooking was going on, the decedent, it is claimed, discovered a leak at the orifice at the bottom of the tank, undertook to close up the leak, and through some manipulation opened the orifice so that the contents of the tank ran out and the heat, steam and lard was blown upon him so
Rupp v. Shaffer.
that he was burned and scalded, and that he died from the effects of the injury.
It is claimed that " the hook and hinge bolt and set screw and apparatus at the man hole " (by means of which the orifice at the bottom of the tank was closed) were not of sufficient strength" to meet the requirements for which they were used, and further that said hook and hinge bolt and set screw and apparatus were defective, out of repair, worn, loose, and in a dangerous condition. It is claimed that the decedent had notified the defendant of the insufficient, defective, improper and dangerous condition aforesaid, and the defendant had promised to have it repaired.
The defendant denies the condition of the apparatus above set forth, and denies that he had been notified that such condition existed, or that he promised to have the same repaired, and he pleads contributory negligence on behalf of decedent.
The trial resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff in the sum of $1,875.00.
The defendant filed a motion for a new trial, and to the overruling of said motion and the judgment rendered below error is prosecuted in this court on account of the several errors claimed to have been committed at the trial which are duly shown by objection and exception on the record.
The first objection is to a certain line of testimony relative to indemnity insurance against employers' liability for accident to employees held by the defendant Mr. Rupp. The testimony on this point as disclosed by the record is as follows:
"Q. Mrs. Schubert, state to the jury what conversation you had with Mr. Rupp at that time. A. Mr. Rupp came to my house in the evening, about half an hour after my husband's death, and he called me into the next room, and he said: ' Mrs. Schubert, have you any money?' I said, 'No sir, I have not.' He said, 'Was your husband insured?' I said, 'Yes, he was insured in the Prudential,' and I told him how much, two hundred and fifty dollars, and he said, 'Well, never mind, don't worry, I have your husband insured in the Accidental Insurance Company for five thousand dollars for the benefit of you and your children.' (Defendant objected to and moved to strike out foregoing answer as to the conversation between witness and Mr. Rupp, on the ground that it is incompetent, that it does not throw any light on the controversy before the jury.)
"The Court: Is that all that took place at that time? A. Yes,
"The Court: How do you claim that is competent evidence, gentlemen?
"Mr. Shepherd: It is in the nature of an admission of Mr. Rupp's negligence, in the nature of an admission as to the improper condition of the machinery, and an admission that he is not the real party in interest; he has no interest in it so far as he is concerned individually, that he is protected here by the insurance company, who are making this defense for him and not he himself; in order to show who was interested in this matter it ought to go to the jury.
"Mr. Andrews: We except to all the remarks of counsel made before the jury, and ask the court to instruct the jury that they are not to be considered by them.
Butler Circuit Court.
The Court: I cannot see how it would be in the nature of an admission as to the improper condition of the machinery. There has not been anything said, the witness does not state anything he said about that. All you claim is he said he had this man insured for $5,000. That would not show whether he was negligent or not. That will have to be stricken out.
"To which ruling of the court the plaintiff excepted.
"Mr. Andrews: We ask the court now to say to the jury that all that testimony and the remarks of counsel about insurance have nothing whatever to do with this case.
"The Court: The jury, of course, will be governed by the evidence; the statements of counsel are not evidence."
Up to this point we are of opinion that the court below ruled correctly.
In the cross-examination of the defendant by Mr. Shepherd, of counsel for plaintiff, the following appears:
"Q. I will ask you, Mr. Rupp, if you had not this man's life insured against accident?
"Objected to by defendant as incompetent and irrelevant; which objection the court overruled; to which ruling of the court defendant excepted.
"Mr. Andrews: If it is in writing, that is the best evidence. "The Court: The plaintiff is not bound by the writing. The witness may answer the question.
'To which ruling of the court defendant excepted.
"A. I have my hands insured against accident.
"Defendant thereupon moved to strike out foregoing answer; which motion the court overruled; to which ruling of the court defendant excepted.
"Q. All of them?
'Objected to by defendant, as incompetent; objection overruled; to which ruling of the court defendant excepted."
"Thereupon defendant moved to strike out foregoing answer; which motion the court overruled; to which ruling of the court defendant excepted.
'Q. State if you did not tell Mrs. Schubert, the widow of Charles Schubert, the day that he died, that you had a five thousand dollar accident insurance policy on your hands against accident?
"Objected to by defendant, as incompetent; objection overruled; to which ruling of the court defendant excepted.
"A. I did tell her I had an accident policy of $5,000 on the hands. "Thereupon defendant objected to and moved to strike out foregogoing answer; which motion the court overruled, to which ruling of the court defendant excepted.
"Q. I will ask you, Mr. Rupp, if the insurance company has ever paid you for this accident?
"Objected to by defendant, as incompetent; objection overruled; to which ruling of the court defendant excepted.
"A. No, sir.
"Thereupon defendant objected to and moved to strike out foregoing answer; which motion the court overruled; to which ruling of the court defendant excepted.
Rupp v. Shaffer.
"Q. Mr. Rupp, state if this insurance company has not employed attorneys in this case for the purpose of defeating the payment of that five thousand dollar claim or policy?
"Objected to by counsel for defendant, as incompetent; objection overruled, to which ruling of the court defendant excepted.
"A. I think they have.
"Thereupon defendant objected to, and moved to strike out, foregoing answer; which motion the court overruled; to which ruling of the court defendant excepted."
The following appears in the charge of the court:
"If the evidence shows you that Mr. Rupp had insured with a company, or with an individual, that in the event of any loss or damage in his factory they would pay it, that does not increase Mr. Rupp's risk; that does not add anything to the rights of Mr. Schubert or to his representative. Mr. Rupp has a right to do that; every good business man has a right to do that as he sees fit, and it does not increase his risk by so doing; and the only purpose for which this court allowed that fact to go to the jury is, it is to be weighed by you with other facts as tending to show, if it does show, it is left exclusively with you to say, whether a man with his property insured in that way would be as diligent, would be as careful, knowing that he was insured, as if he were not. It is simply a question of fact for you to weigh, namely, as to his negligence or want of care. But it cannot be used to increase Mr. Rupp's liability any more than if he did not have the insurance.”
We are of opinion that the admission of any evidence on the subject of this indemnity insurance, and the charge of the court relative thereto, was erroneous. This is comparatively a new question, and we have been able to find but one authority directly in point, and in that case it was somewhat of an obiter, but we are of opinion that the fact that an employer takes out indemnity insurance as against liability for the personal injury of his employees in no way affects the employer's liability or the employee's right to recover for such injury or death; neither has the fact that the employer has such insurance any tendency to show that he may have been less careful in providing for the safety of his employee. The relaxation of care which might be suggested by reason of such insurance, would not only be wrong to the employee, but if done consciously, would be in bad faith to the insurer. The insured must certainly maintain the same or ordinary care as to the safety of the employee as he would without such insurance.
The case above referred to was Manly v. Minneapolis Paint Co., 78 N. W. Rep., 1050 [76 Minn., 169].
"The fact that the master holds an indemnity policy insuring him against liability on account of injuries to his employees by his negligence, and requiring the company to defend an action against him on account of such injuries, and it does so, is not evidence tending to show an admission of negligence on the part of the insured or insurer."
(Syllabus by the Court.)
"Evidence was received without objection on the trial to the effect that the defendant was insured against loss from liability for damages on account of bodily injuries suffered by its employees caused by its negli gence, and that the insurance company, at the request of the defendant. was defending this case. The plaintiff claims hat this is an admission of Legligence in the premises on the part of the defendant and insur