l. When one person puts his servant at the disposal and under
the control of another for the performance of a particular service
for the latter, the servant, in respect of his acts in that
service, is to be dealt with as the servant of the latter, and not
of the former. P. 284 U. S.
2. Railroad companies are required by statute to transport the
mail "in the manner, under the conditions, and with the service
prescribed by the Postmaster General," and one of his
Page 284 U. S. 306
provides that they shall furnish the men necessary to handle the
mails and to load them into the mail cars under the direction of a
transfer clerk, a federal employee. Held
companies are not liable for personal injuries resulting from the
negligence of one of their employee while he was engaged in so
loading mail, because his work at the time was work of the
government, under control of a government gent. P. 309.
160 Miss. 850, 133 So. 656, affirmed.
p. 603, to review a judgment
reversing a judgment recovered by the plaintiff in an action for
personal injuries against two railroad companies.
Page 284 U. S. 307
MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petitioner, a United States railway postal clerk, sustained
an injury due to the alleged negligence of one Hunter, a porter in
the general service of the two railroad companies named as
respondents. Hunter was hired and paid by the Illinois Central
Railroad Company. At the time of the injury, he was engaged in
loading United States mail into a mail car, under the direction of
a United States postal transfer clerk, and was not, as to that
work, under the direction or control of either of the railroad
The mail was being transported by the railroad companies under
chapter 261, § 5, 39 Stat. 412, 429, U.S.C. Title 39, § 541, which
requires all railway common carriers to transport such mail "in the
manner, under the conditions, and with the service prescribed by
the Postmaster General." A regulation of the Postmaster General,
adopted by authority of this statute, provides:
"* * * *"
"2. Railroad companies shall furnish the men necessary to handle
the mails, to load them into and receive them from the doors of
railway post office cars, and to load and pile the mails in and
unload them from storage and baggage cars, under the direction of
the transfer clerk, or clerk in charge of the car, if one is on
duty, except as provided in Section 1290. Mails intended for
delivery to postal clerk shall never be placed in a postal car
unless there is a clerk on duty to receive and care for them."
Petitioner brought an action in a Mississippi state court of
first instance against the railroad companies and
Page 284 U. S. 308
Hunter to recover damages for the injury, joining the railroads
upon the theory that, in performing the work of loading the mail,
Hunter was their servant. A verdict against all of the defendants
was returned by the jury, and a judgment thereon entered. The
judgment, as to the railroad companies, was reversed by the state
supreme court on the ground that what Hunter was doing at the time
of his alleged negligent act was not for them, but for the United
States. 133 So. 656.
Whether the railroad companies may be held liable for Hunter's
act depends not upon the fact that he was their servant generally,
but upon whether the work which he was doing at the time was their
work, or that of another -- a question determined, usually at
least, by ascertaining under whose authority and command the work
was being done. When one person puts his servant at the disposal
and under the control of another for the performance of a
particular service for the latter, the servant, in respect of his
acts in that service, is to be dealt with as the servant of the
latter, and not of the former. This rule is elementary, and finds
support in a large number of decisions, a few only of which need be
cited. In Standard Oil Co. v. Anderson, 212 U.
, 212 U. S. 220
212 U. S. 225
this Court said:
"The servant himself is, of course, liable for the consequences
of his own carelessness. But when, as is so frequently the case, an
attempt is made to impose upon the master the liability for those
consequences, it sometimes becomes necessary to inquire who was the
master at the very time of the negligent act or omission. One may
be in the general service of another, and nevertheless, with
respect to particular work, may be transferred, with his own
consent or acquiescence, to the service of a third person, so that
he becomes the servant of that person, with all the legal
consequences of the new relation."
"* * * *
Page 284 U. S.
"To determine whether a given case falls within the one class or
the other, we must inquire whose is the work being performed -- a
question which is usually answered by ascertaining who has the
power to control and direct the servants in the performance of
their work. Here we must carefully distinguish between
authoritative direction and control, and mere suggestion as to
details or the necessary cooperation, where the work furnished is
part of a larger undertaking"
"* * * *"
"In many of the cases, the power of substitution or discharge,
the payment of wages, and other circumstances bearing upon the
relation are dwelt upon. They, however, are not the ultimate facts,
but only those more or less useful in determining whose is the work
and whose is the power of control."
And see Linstead v. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co.,
276 U. S. 28
Harrell v. Atlas Portland Cement Co.,
250 F. 83, 85;
Brady v. Chicago & G. W. Ry. Co.,
114 F. 100, 107;
Wyllie v. Palmer,
137 N.Y. 248, 257, 33 N.E. 381;
Higgins v. Western Union Telegraph Co.,
156 N.Y. 75, 78,
50 N.E. 500; Cotter v. Lindgren,
106 Cal. 602, 607, 39 P.
950; Rourke v. White Moss Colliery Co.,
L.R., 2 C.P. Div.
The statutory obligation imposed upon the railroad carriers is
simply to transport mail offered for transportation by the United
States. They are not required to handle, load, or receive mail
matter, but only to furnish the men necessary for those purposes.
The men so furnished handle the mails and load them into, and
receive them from, the railway post office cars, as the regulation
prescribes, "under the direction of the transfer clerk, or clerk in
charge of the car." The work they do is that of the government. It
is said that "direction" means nothing more than the right to point
out or indicate to the men furnished
Page 284 U. S. 310
the disposition to be made of the mail. The scope of the word,
as it is here used, is not to be thus limited. The phrase "under
the direction of the transfer clerk" would be practically
meaningless unless it comprehended the power to supervise and
control the movement. Obviously, as the evidence shows, a direction
by the transfer clerk carries with it the duty on the part of the
men directed to obey, and has, and was intended to have, the force
of a command. See Warner Valley Stock Co. v. Smith,
165 U. S. 28
165 U. S. 34
Kellyville Coal Co. v. Bruzas,
223 Ill. 595, 600, 79 N.E.
and Driscoll v.
181 Mass. 416, 63 N.E. 922, 923, are relied upon by
petitioner to sustain the verdict of the jury. In the
case, a winchman in the general service of the
Standard Oil Company was furnished by the company to a master
stevedore under contract with it to load a ship with oil. The
winchman, in operating the winch, depended upon signals to be given
by an employee of the stevedore to determine the proper time for
hoisting and lowering the cargo. The negligence charged was that a
draft of cases had been lowered before receiving the signal. This
Court held upon the facts, in the light of the rule which we have
just stated and discussed, that the power, the winch, and the
winchman were those of the company, and that the company did not
furnish them, but furnished the work they did to the stevedore, and
that this work was done by the company as its own work, by its own
instrumentalities and servant under its control. A judgment for
Anderson against the company was affirmed.
In the Driscoll
case, the defendant was engaged in a
general teaming business. Plaintiff was struck and injured by a
horse or wagon driven by a servant of the defendant. This driver,
for some time, had been carrying property for an electric light
company under some
Page 284 U. S. 311
arrangement between that company and the defendant. He was told
by an employee of the company, from time to time, what to do and
where to go, and was sometimes directed to drive fast, in which
event he did so. He selected his own route, and had exclusive
management of his horse. At the time of the accident, he was going
to get some supplies in pursuance of an order from the foreman of
the company. It was held that there was evidence to go to the jury
that the driver was the servant of the defendant. The court said
that it fairly could be found that the contract between defendant
and the company was an ordinary one by the defendant to do his
regular business by his servants in the common way; that, in such
cases, the one who employs the contractor controls the servant only
in the sense that he indicates the work to be done, but that the
person who receives such orders is not subject to the general
orders of the one who gives them.
"He does his own business in his own way, and the orders which
he receives simply point out to him the work which he or his master
has undertaken to do."
In each of these cases, the facts plainly demonstrated that the
work was that of the general master, and that, in doing it, the
servant had not passed under the direction and control of the
person for whom the immediate work was being done, the latter being
looked to not for commands, but for information. As already shown,
the facts of the present case require a different conclusion.