Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Deselms,
212 U.S. 159 (1909)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Deselms, 212 U.S. 159 (1909)

Waters-Pierce Oil Company v. Deselms

No. 62

Argued January 8, 1909

Decided February 1, 1909

212 U.S. 159


In the construction of a statute, a superfluous negative may be omitted where the meaning is apparent, as in this case.

Where the subject is within the power of the state, it is not within the province of the judiciary to disregard statutory standards on the ground that the legislature did not act wisely in enacting them.

Provisions for unequal punishment of corporations and individuals for violations of the same statute held, in regard to the Oklahoma Territory Oil Inspection Law, to be separable, and, even if unconstitutional, not to affect the prohibitions contained in the statute against the use of oil not conforming to the standards fixed thereby.

Under the circumstances of this case, this Court will not hold that the Supreme Court of Oklahoma erred in judicially noticing a custom in the Territory to use coal oil in kindling fires.

While the burden on the plaintiff is not satisfied by showing an accident and an injury, where there was adequate proof to show that an explosion occurred which could only have occurred by the unlawful character of articles sold by defendant, a peremptory instruction for defendant is properly refused.

Where the original vendor knowingly sells, as coal oil, a mixture of coal oil and gasoline, of such inflammable character as to be unlawful under the local statute, to a vendee who in ignorance of its unlawful nature sells it to a third party in like ignorance, the original vendor is directly responsible to the final purchaser for the consequences of an explosion, produced solely by reason of such unlawful nature while the oil is being used in a legitimate manner. In such a case, the responsibility of the original vendor rests not on contract, but in tort.

Page 212 U. S. 160

On the fact in this case, and in view of the ignorance of both vendees in regard thereto, the unlawful character of the article sold held to be the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries, but quaere, and undecided, whether the original vendor would have been relieved of responsibility if the first vendee had knowledge of the unlawful character of the article.

Held, in a case on error to the Supreme Court of the Territory of Oklahoma, that this Court doe not possess the power to grant a new trial solely on the ground that the jury awarded excessive damages.

When the court, at defendant's request, has charged as to the general rule of ascertaining plaintiff's damages, it is not error to add that the amount, as in this case for death of infant children, had not been fixed by the evidence, and that the verdict must be the result of the jury's own judgment.

If an ambiguity exits in the charge, counsel should at the time ask the court to remove it.

18 Okl. 107 affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 212 U. S. 165

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