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SEABOARD AIR LINE RY. V. HORTON, 233 U. S. 492 (1914)

U.S. Supreme Court

Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Horton, 233 U.S. 492 (1914)

Seaboard Air Line Railway v. Horton

No. 691

Argued February 27, 1914

Decided April 27, 1914

233 U.S. 492


A writ of error in terms returnable within thirty days from the date thereof substantially complies with the return day provision in clause 5 of Rule 8 of this Court.

Where the state court of last resort sustained the trial court in overruling contentions made by the plaintiff in error, asserting a construction of the Employers' Liability Act which, if acceded to, would have resulted in a verdict in his favor, this Court has jurisdiction under § 237, Judicial Code.

Since Congress, by the Employers' Liability Act of 1908, took control of the liability of carriers engaged in interstate transportation by rail to employees injured while engaged in interstate commerce, all state laws upon the subject have been superseded. Second Employers' Liability Cases, 223 U. S. 1, 223 U. S. 55.

Whatever may have been the common law rule theretofore, Congress, in enacting the Employers' Liability Act, intended to, and did, base the action on negligence only, and excluded responsibility of the carrier to its employees for defects and insufficiencies not attributable to negligence.

The provision diminishing liability of the carrier in case of contributory negligence on the part of the injured employee except where there has been a violation by the carrier of any statute enacted for the safety of employees relates to federal statutes only, and not to state statutes.

The Employers' Liability Act having expressly eliminated the defense of assumption of risk in certain specified cases, the intent of Congress is plain that in all other cases such assumption shall have its former effect as a bar to an action by the injured employee.

When the employee knows of a defect in the appliances used by him and appreciates the resulting danger and continues in the employment without objection, or without obtaining from the employer an assurance of reparation, he assumes the risk even though it may arise from the employer's breach of duty.

Where there is promise of reparation by the employer, the continuing on duty by the employee does not amount to assumption of risk unless the danger be so imminent that no ordinarily prudent man would rely on such promise.

Page 233 U. S. 493

Under the Employers' Liability Act, a defect in an appliance which is not covered by any of the Federal Safety Acts does not leave the employer absolutely responsible for the defect, but the common law rule as to assumption of risk applies, and so held as to a defect in a water gauge of which the engineer had knowledge before the accident resulting therefrom.

162 N.C. 77 reversed.

The facts, which involve the construction of the Federal Employers' Liability Acts of 1908 and 1910 and the effect of those statutes on state laws in regard to liability of employers, are stated in the opinion.

Page 233 U. S. 495

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