Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

101

[ocr errors]

perfectly distinct one whether the defendant was liable at all.

I come finally to the question of damages. In those States where exemplary damages are allowed, the attempt naturally has been made to recover such damages from masters when their servant's conduct has been such as to bring the doctrine into play. Some courts have had the courage to be consistent. "What is the principle,” it is asked, "upon which this rule of damages is founded? It is that the act of the agent is the act of the principal himself. The law has established, to this extent, their legal unity and identity. . This legal unity of the principal and agent, in respect to the wrongful or tortious, as well as the rightful acts, of the agent, done in the course of his employment, is an incident which the law has wisely attached to the relation, from its earliest history.” “If then the act of the agent be the act of the principal in law, and this legal identity is the foundation of the responsibility of the principal, there can be no escape from his indemnity to the full extent of civil responsiblity.” An instruction that the jury might give punitive damages was upheld, and the plaintiff had judgment for $12,000. Whatever may be said of the practical consequences or the English of the opinion from which these extracts are made, it has the merit of going to the root of the matter with great keenness. On the other

101 New Orleans, Jackson, & Great Northern R. R. Co. v. Bailey, 40 Miss. 395, 452, 453, 456 (1866); aca Atlantic & G. W. Ry. Co. v. Dunn, 19 Ohio St. 162.

102

hand, other courts, more impressed by the monstrosity of the result than by the elegantia juris, have peremptorily declared that it was absurd to punish a man who had not been to blame, and have laid down the opposite rule without hesitation.

I think I now have made good the propositions which I undertook at the beginning of this essay to establish. I fully admit that the evidence here collected has been gathered from nooks and corners, and that although in the mass it appears to me imposing, it does not lie conspicuous upon the face of the law. And this is equivalent to admitting, as I do, that the views here maintained are not favorites with the courts. How can they be? A judge would blush to say nakedly to a defendant: "I can state no rational ground on which you should be held liable, but there is a fiction of law which I must respect and by which I am bound to say that you did the act complained of, although we both know perfectly well that it was done by somebody else whom the plaintiff could have sued if he had chosen, who was selected with the utmost care by you, who was in fact an eminently proper person for the employment in which he was engaged, and whom it was not only your right to employ, but much to the public advantage that you should employ.” That would not be a satisfactory form in which to render a decision against a master, and it is not pleasant even to admit to one's self that

a

102 Hagar v. Providence & Worcester R.R., 3 R. I. 88 (1854); Cleghorn v. New York Central & Hudson River R.R., 56 N. Y. 44 (1874). Cf. Craker v. Chicago & N. W. R.R., 36 Wis. 657 (1875).

such are the true grounds upon which one is deciding. Naturally, therefore, judges have striven to find more intelligible reasons, and have done so in the utmost good faith; for whenever a rule of law is in fact a survival of ancient traditions, its ancient meaning is gradually forgotten, and it has to be reconciled to present notions of policy and justice, or to disappear.

If the law of the agency can be resolved into mere applications of general and accepted principles, then my argument fails; but I think it cannot be, and I may suggest, as another ground for my opinion beside those which I have stated heretofore, that the variety of reasons which have been offered for the most important application of the fiction of identity, the liability of the master for his servant's torts, goes far to show that none of those reasons are good. Baron Parke, as we have seen, says that case is brought in effect for employing a negligent servant. Others have suggested that it was because it was desirable that there should be some responsible man who could pay the damages.108 Mr. Justice Grove thinks that the master takes the risk of such offences as it must needs be should come.

I admit my scepticism as to the value of any such general considerations, while on the other hand I should be perfectly ready to believe, upon evidence, that the law could be justified as it stands when applied to special cases upon special grounds.

104

108 See Williams v. Jones, 3 H. & C. 256, 263; 1 Harg. Law Tracts, 347.

104 Cf. what is said as to common carriers in The Common Law, 204, 205.

[ocr errors]

There should have been added to the illustrations of a man's responsibility within his house, given in the former article, that of a vassal for attempts on the chastity of his lord's daughter or sister "tant com elle est Damoiselle en son Hostel,” in Ass. Jerusalem, c. 205, 217, ed. 1690. The origin of the liability of innkeepers never has been studied, so far as I know Beaumanoir, c. 36, seems to confine the liability to things intrusted to the innkeeper, and to limit it somewhat even in that case, and to suggest grounds of policy. The English law was more severe, and put it on the ground that the guest for the time had come to be under the innkeeper's protection and safety. 42 Ass., pl. 17, fol. 260. A capias was refused on the ground that the defendant was not in fault, but an elegit was granted. 42 Ed. III. II, pl. 13. Notwithstanding the foregoing reason given for it, the liability was confined, at an early date, to those exercising a common calling (common hostler). 11 Hen. IV. 45, pl. 18. See The Common Law, 183-189, 203. See further, 22 Hen. VI. 21, pl. 38; pl. 8. And note a limitation of liability in cases of taking by the king's enemies, similar to that of bailees. Plowden, 9, and note in margin; The Common Law, 177, 182, 199, 201. The references to the custom of England, or to the lex terræ, are of no significance. The Common Law, 188. See further, the titles of Glanvill and Bracton. Other citations could be given if necessary.

PRIVILEGE, MALICE, AND INTENT *

THE law of torts as now administered has worked itself into substantial agreement with a general theory. I should sum up the first part of the theory in a few words, as follows: Actions of tort are brought for temporal damage. The law recognizes temporal damage as an evil which its object is to prevent or to redress, so far as is consistent with paramount considerations to be mentioned. When it is shown that the defendant's act has had temporal damage to the plaintiff for its consequence, the next question is whether that consequence was one which the defendant might have foreseen. If common experience has shown that some such consequence was likely to follow the act under the circumstances known to the actor, he is taken to have acted with notice, and is held liable, unless he escapes upon the special grounds to which I have referred, and which I shall mention in a moment. The standard applied is external, and the words malice, intent, and negligence, as used in this connection, refer to an external standard. If the manifest probability of harm is very great, and the harm follows, we say that it is done maliciously or intentionally; if not so great, but still considerable, we say that the harm is

* Harvard Law Review, Vol. VIII, 1. (1894.)

« AnteriorContinuar »