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JEFFREY MANUFACTURING COMPANY v. BLAGG

January 5, 1915

JEFFREY MANUFACTURING COMPANY
v.
BLAGG



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF OHIO

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney, McReynolds

Author: Day

[ 235 U.S. Page 572]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

This action was brought in the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County, Ohio, to recover for injuries received by Harry O. Blagg, while in the service of The Jeffrey Manufacturing Company, a corporation engaged in manufacturing at Columbus, Ohio. The allegation was that the injury happened to the plaintiff because of the standing of certain freight cars upon a switch, with an opening left between them for the use of employes; that the plaintiff was directed by the defendant to assist in removing certain lumber from a point on the north side of the switch, and, in so doing, it was necessary for the plaintiff to pass, as directed and instructed by the defendant, through the opening between the fourth and fifth cars on the switch; that whilst he was so doing, defendant caused to run against the car standing on the east end of the switch a long cut of cars pushed by an engine, with the result that the cars on the switch were jammed and pushed together, and the plaintiff was caught and seriously injured. The negligence charged was (1) in causing said cut of cars to be pushed upon and against the car standing upon said switch while plaintiff was between said cars, (2) in failing to warn or notify the plaintiff of the intention of the defendant to push said cars into or upon said switch or

[ 235 U.S. Page 573]

     against the car on the east end thereof, and (3) in having an insufficient number of men or employes engaged in the handling and switching of said cut of cars. A recovery was had in the Court of Common Pleas, and the judgment was affirmed in the Court of Appeals, and in the Supreme Court of the State, and the case was brought here by writ of error.

The constitutionality of the Act of the General Assembly of the State of Ohio known as the Workmen's Compensation Law is brought in question because of the fact that manufacturing companies, employing five or more, who do not take advantage of its provisions, and the plaintiff in error did not, are deprived in negligence cases of certain defenses otherwise available: (1) negligence of fellow-servants, (2) defense of assumed risk, and (3) defense of contributory negligence.

[ 35 S. Ct. Page ]

     The constitutionality of the act was sustained against many objections after full consideration by the Supreme Court of Ohio in State ex rel. Yaple v. Creamer, 85 Oh. St. 349. The validity of the act in a single feature is here brought in question. To decide it renders necessary some examination of its provisions, as outlined in §§ 1465, et seq., of Vol. 1, Page & Adams' annotated General Code of Ohio. The act is intended to create a state insurance fund for the benefit of injured, and the dependents of killed, employes. The general scheme of the law is to provide compensation by means of procedure before a board, for injuries not wilfully self-inflicted, received by employes in the course of their employment. The employer who complies with the law is relieved from liability for injury or death of an employe who has complied with the terms of the act, except the injury arise from the wilful act of the employer, his officer or agent, or from failure to comply with laws enacted for protection of the employe, in which event the injured may sue for damages or recover under the act. It is one of the laws which has

[ 235 U.S. Page 574]

     become more or less common in the States, and aims to substitute a method of compensation by means of investigation and hearing before a board, for what was regarded as an unfair and inadequate system, based upon statutes or the common law. The purpose of the act, as appears from its title, is to provide a fund out of which reparation in such cases shall be made. For that purpose the employments are classified by the State Liability Board of Awards, with reference to their degree of hazard and risk, and rates of premiums fixed, based upon the total payroll and number of employes in each of the classes of employments, the purpose being to establish a fund adequate to provide for the compensation required in the act, and to create a surplus sufficiently large to guarantee a state insurance fund from year to year. (Section 1465-53, General Code.) Every employer who employs five workmen or more regularly in the same business or in the same establishment, who pays into the fund in accordance with the requirements of the act, is not liable to respond in damages at common law or by statute, save as in the act provided, for injuries or deaths of any such employes, provided the employes remain in the service with notice that the employer has paid into the state insurance fund the premiums required by the act. (Section 1465-57 General Code.) Section 1465-60 provides that "all employers who employ five or more workmen or operatives regularly in the same business, or in or about the same establishment who shall not pay into the state insurance fund the premiums provided by this act, shall be liable to their employes for damages suffered by reason of personal injuries sustained in the course of employment caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of the employer, or any of the employer's officers, agents or employes, and also to the personal representatives of such employes where death results from such injuries and in such action the defendant

[ 235 U.S. Page 575]

     shall not avail himself or itself of the following common law defenses: The defense of the fellow-servant rule, the defense of the assumption of risk, or the defense of contributory negligence." There are provisions of ...


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