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Law School Case Brief

Farwell v. Bos. & W. R. R. Corp. - 45 Mass. 49 (1842)


Where several persons are employed in the conduct of one common enterprise or undertaking, and the safety of each depends much on the care and skill with which each other shall perform his appropriate duty, each is an observer of the conduct of the others, can give notice of any misconduct, incapacity or neglect of duty, and leave the service, if the common employer will not take such precautions, and employ such agents as the safety of the whole party may require. By these means, the safety of each will be much more effectually secured, than could be done by a resort to the common employer for indemnity in case of loss by the negligence of each other. Regarding it in this light, it is the ordinary case of one sustaining an injury in the course of his own employment, in which he must bear the loss himself, or seek his remedy, if he have any, against the actual wrong-doer. 


Plaintiff employee and another employee worked for defendant employer, whose business it was to construct and maintain a railroad. Plaintiff and the other employee were appointed and employed by defendant to perform separate duties and services, all tending to the accomplishment of the safe and rapid transmission of the trains. Plaintiff claimed that he was injured because of the carelessness and negligence of the other employee and brought suit against defendant.


Was the employer liable for the injuries sustained by an employee due to the negligence of another employee?




The court held that plaintiff was not entitled to recovery. The court found that the claim had to be maintained on the ground of contract. As there was no express contract between the parties, it was placed on the footing of an implied contract of indemnity, arising out of the relation of master and servant. Persons are not to be responsible, in all cases, for the negligence of those employed by them. The court held that plaintiff's employment was a voluntary undertaking with full knowledge of the risks incident to the employment. Under the circumstances, the loss was deemed the result of a pure accident and that it must rest where it first fell, unless plaintiff had a remedy against the person actually in default.

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