Mayhew v. Sullivan Mining Co.

76 Me. 100 (1884)



It is no excuse for a want of ordinary care that carelessness is universal about the matter involved or at the place of the accident, or in the business generally. Ordinary care is the care which persons of ordinary prudence -- not careless persons -- would take under all the circumstances. Reasonable care is perhaps as good a term and conveys as correct an idea of the care required.


The contractor was hired to break down the rock and ore in a certain portion of the defendant company's mineshaft. The contract provided that the contractor was to have a use of a platform in the shaft. At the direction of a company superintendent, a worker cut a ladder hole in the platform. The contractor was not notified and no warnings or barriers were erected. Consequently, the contractor fell through the hole and was injured. He sued and obtained a judgment against the company for negligence. The defendant appealed, claiming the contractor was merely a servant precluded from recovery and such ladder holes were customary in mining operations.


Is a company's injured contractor entitled to damages for the company's negligence even if he is a servant of the company?




In its decision, the Court ruled that where there is a binding contract for the performance of a specific job by a contractor for a price agreed, it matters not, in determining the question whether he who has undertaken such job is to be regarded as the mere servant of the other party, what kind of work was the subject of the contract, or whether it was or not a portion of the regular work which the party contracting for it was carrying on. Where a ladder-hole is cut in a platform to a mine, while it is in active operation, by the direction of the superintendent, and one, who is employed in the mine, for want of a railing, or light, or want of warning, falls through the hole and is injured, the company operating the mine is liable for the damages sustained, whether the person so injured was a servant or contractor.

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