U.S. Supreme Court
Quebec Steamship Co. v. Merchant, 133 U.S. 375 (1890)
Quebec Steamship Co. v. Merchant
Argued January 24, 1890
Decided March 3, 1890
133 U.S. 375
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED
STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
The stewardess of a steam vessel belonging to a corporation sued it to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by her. She came out of the cabin, which was on deck, to throw the contents of a pail over the side of the vessel at a gangway facing the door of the cabin, and leaned over a railing at the gangway, composed of four horizontal rods, which gave way because not properly secured, and she fell into the water, probably striking the side of a boat. The rods were movable, to make a gangway, and had been recently opened to take off some baggage of passengers, and not properly replaced. The porter and the carpenter had attempted to replace them, but left the work, knowing that it was unfinished. The persons composing the ship's company were divided into three classes of servants, called three departments -- the deck department, containing the first and second officers, the purser, the carpenter and the sailors; the engineer's department, containing the engineers, the firemen and the coal-passers, and the steward's department, containing the steward, the waiters, the cooks, the porter, and the stewardess. Everyone on board, including the plaintiff, had signed the shipping articles, and she had participated in salvage given to the vessel. The master was in command of the whole vessel. Held, they the porter and the carpenter were fellow servants with the plaintiff, and that the corporation was not liable to her for any damages.
The circuit court left it to the jury to determine, if they found there was negligence, whether the injury was occasioned by the careless act of a servant not employed in the same department with the plaintiff. Held error, and that the court ought to have directed the jury, as requested, to find for the defendant on the ground that the negligence was that of a fellow servant, either the porter or the carpenter.