Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Horton,
239 U.S. 595 (1916)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Horton, 239 U.S. 595 (1916)

Seaboard Air Line Railway v. Horton

No. 541

Argued November 30, December 1, 1915

Decided January 10, 1916

239 U.S. 595


An employee who knows of a defect arising from the employer's negligence and appreciates the risk attributable thereto and continues in the employment without objection or promise of reparation assumes the risk notwithstanding it arises from the employer's breach of duty. Seaboard Air Line v. Horton, 233 U. S. 504.

Where the employer promises reparation of such a defect and the employee, relying on such promise, continues, he does not, during such time as is reasonably required for its fulfillment, assume the risk unless at least the danger is so imminent that no ordinarily prudent man would, under the circumstances, rely upon such a promise. Id.

Where, as in the present case, the injury was caused by the absence of a glass protector in front of a water gauge which burst, and the employee had continued after knowledge and promise of reparation, held that the trial court did not err in refusing to hold as matter of law

Page 239 U. S. 596

that the danger was so imminent that no ordinarily prudent man would continue the employment in reliance on the promise, and that one so continuing did assume the risk.

Reasonable reliance by an employee on a promise of reparation and continuance in his employment for a reasonable period pending performance cannot be regarded as contributory negligence as matter of law; the request and direction of the employer has a material bearing on the question, and so held in this case that the question was properly submitted to the jury.

Authorities differ, and not yet decided by this Court in this or prior cases, as to whether continuing the employment in presence of danger so imminent that no ordinarily prudent man would confront it, even where the employer has promised reparation, amounts to assumption of risk or contributory negligence.

Distinctions between assumption of risk and contributory negligence which were of little consequence when both led to the same result become more important in cases under the Employers' Liability Act where the former is a complete bar, and the latter merely mitigates the damages.

Whether continuing to use one defective apparatus instead of another apparatus amounted to proximate cause of injury is, at most, a question for the jury if it be shown that the latter was not a safe instrumentality.

85 S.E. 218 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the validity of a verdict and judgment in an action for injuries under the Employers' Liability Act, are stated in the opinion.

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