New Jersey Steamboat Co. v. Brockett,
121 U.S. 637 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

New Jersey Steamboat Co. v. Brockett, 121 U.S. 637 (1887)

New Jersey Steamboat Company v. Brockett

Argued April 22, 1887

Decided May 2, 1887

121 U.S. 637


When the contract of a common carrier with a passenger assigns to the latter a particular part of the vessel or vehicle to be occupied by him during transportation, and he voluntarily occupies a place different from that contracted for, the carrier is released from liability for injuries which necessarily arise from the passenger's change of place, but it

Page 121 U. S. 638

continues bound to furnish safe transportation, and to indemnify the passenger, under general rules of law, for injuries which do not directly arise by reason of his change of place or which are caused by improper conduct of the carrier's servants, acting either in the scope of their general duties or in the discharge of special duties imposed upon them.

A common carrier undertakes absolutely to protect its passengers against the misconduct or negligence of its own servants employed in executing the contract of transportation and acting within the general scope of their employment.

What will be misconduct on the part of the servants of a common carrier toward a passenger cannot be defined by a general rule applicable to every case, but must depend upon the particular circumstances in which they are required to act, and in this case the issue was fairly placed before the jury by the court.

Declarations made by out officer to another officer of a steamboat while both are engaged in violently removing a passenger from a part of the vessel in which his contract of transportation did not entitle him to be are admissible in evidence as part of the res gestae in an action brought by the passenger against the corporation owning the steamboat and transporting the passenger to recover damages for injuries resulting from the assault.

This action was brought to recover damages sustained by the defendant in error, the plaintiff below, in consequence of personal injuries inflicted upon him by the employees of the plaintiff in error, a carrier of freight and passengers between the Cities of Albany and New York in the State of New York. A verdict and judgment having been rendered for the sum of $5,500, the case is brought here for review upon the ground that the court below committed errors of law in the conduct of the trial.

The plaintiff avers that he was received by the defendant as a deck passenger upon its boat the Dean Richmond at Albany, and that, in consideration of his having paid the price established for passengers of that class, it undertook to carry him safely to the City of New York, and thereby became bound that its servants and employees on said boat should not needlessly injure him while engaged in the discharge of their duties; that the defendant did not keep its contract, but broke the same in that by its servants on said boat it needlessly and severely wounded him in his person during the voyage, and whereby also incurable injuries were inflicted upon him. These allegations are accompanied by a statement of the circumstances under which the plaintiff insists the alleged wrongs were committed.

The answer denies generally that the company's agents or servants were guilty of negligence or improper conduct, and states

"That the plaintiff paid for a deck passage, and it received him on its boat as a deck passenger for passage to New York on a certain part of the boat allotted to deck passengers, as well known to the plaintiff, and subject to long established rules and regulations of the defendant, including that mentioned in the complaint, of which the plaintiff had due and full notice; that the said rules and regulations were reasonable, and the defendant's officers and employees on the said boat were charged with the duty of enforcing them in a reasonable and proper way, without unnecessary force or violence, and the said rules and regulations, and the officers and employees of the boat in uniform, were well known to the plaintiff; that the plaintiff did not remain on the part of the boat allotted to deck passengers, and did not obey the said reasonable rules and regulations of defendant, but refused so to do, and, contrary to the peace, quiet, good order, and safety of the said boat and its passengers, made a disturbance on the said boat, and the defendant neither used nor authorized any undue or unnecessary force or violence in the enforcement of the aforesaid rule and regulation, but the contrary thereof, and the plaintiff was not injured by any of the defendant's officers, employees, or agents, as alleged in the complaint. "

Page 121 U. S. 643

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