Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

We might better have no courts, than differently stated from what it seems to to have them echo the varying surges of have been in the trial of this case, or it an ever-changing and baseless public would be very likely to be misapplied sentiment. In a case like the present, by the jury, as it certainly was here. it would be far better to have the court The error in the charge seems to be instruct the jury, in so many words, in treating "the injury to the plaintiff's that the plaintiff's disregard of the com- feelings, the indignity and the public mon courtesies and decencies of life, exposure,' as forming no part of the justified the defendants in inflicting such actual damages in the action. Nothing punishment upon him, as would teach could be further from the truth ; since him not to repeat the offence, and to these things not only constitute a porconduct with more circumspection in tion of the actual damages, but the printhe future, than to have left the case cipal portion. It is scarcely possible to to the jury, in such a slipshod way, as

conceive any proposition more unjust or to bring about the same result exactly, unreasonable-not to say absurd-than but without any technical violation of to suppose that in a transaction like that, the rules of law. And we must say, it through which the plaintiff' was dragged seems to us that the charge of the court by the defendants, that the actual - inbelow, and the opinion of the full court, jury to his person and his detention" although clearly not so intenderl, must

embraced all for which he was entitled have operated in that direction.

to compensation under the head of'actual Possibly some may claim, that upon damages. a nice construction, there was no error

It is not probable, indeed, that the in law, and all agree that courts cannot plaintiff was of that delicate organizabe expected always to control the way- tion, that he would be likely to suffer wardness or the prejudices of juries. any irreparable damage merely from the But this is generally urged, where courts

insult and indignity, for if so, he could desire to throw their own responsibility not have said what he did. But there upon the irresponsibility of the jury. are many persons who, from similar And it seems to us the charge to the treatment, might have been ruined for jury, in this case, afforded the jury an

life; and the rule of law is the same in excellent opportunity to punish the all such cases. And there is no case, plaintiff, and at the same time to com except the present, so far as we have pliment the defendants for taking the noticeil, which attempts to discriminate plaintiff in hand, and applying the rules between corporeal and external injuries, of Lynch law to him, in the summary and those which affect the sensibilities. mode they did. This was all very well, These latter, are those which form the provided it were the business of courts chief ingredient of damages in this class to administer Lynch law, or to moderate of actions. If these latter are to he exthe strictness of the existing law. But cluded from consideration, or justified as that is not the fact, but the contrary, by public sentiment, there might better it seems a peculiarly unfortunate dis come an end of all pretence of the adtinction which the court have attempted ministration of justice. It is the direct to make in this case, between compen- and sure mode of encouraging a resort satory and exemplary damages, and to to force for remedy and redress. allow of the mitigation of one and not We know that some very able writers, of the other.

and among them the late Prof. GreenIf there be, in fact, any such distinc- leaf (2 Evidence, 2, 253 and n. et seq.), tion in the law, it should certainly be contend for the rule, that in no case are


exemplary or pnnitive damages to be profession, and especially the courts, in given, but that in all cases they should this country, that the high privilege of be confined to making compensation to free speech is not created, or maintained, the plaintiff. But no writer, or judge, for the exclusive, or the chief benefit of

our knowledge, has ever before at wise and discreet men. They will do tempted to limit the actual damages to very well without any such protection. which the plaintiff was in all cases enti- But it is intended for the protection of tled by way of compensation, to loss of every class of the most ranting fools, time and injury to the person, in cases and the vilest black guards, and the most of trespass and false imprisonment. Mr. infamous blasphemers, except as they Sedgwick (Dam. 665, n. 1), says, that are liable to some restraint by the firm "all rules, or rather definite principles and wise administrators of the criminal of damages in civil actions, must be re and civil law of the land. These are ferred either to compensation or punish- the only men who require protection at ment." No one, we suppose, would for the hands of the administrators of the a moment deny that the plaintiff, in an law; and when we allow ourselves to be action of this character, is entitled to cheated with the delusion that the simple recover damages for “the injury to his and degraded, or the offensive and feelings, the indignity, and the public coarse-grained, do not deserve the highexposure ;” and it would seem to be est protection of the law, we approach cqually improbable, that any one should a point of timeserving, which is but one hold, that such damages were in the degree removed from actual corruption, nature of punishment to the defendant, of which we already begin to hear and only recoverable under that head. charges, in some quarters, but we trust

The truth unquestionably is, in the wholly without foundation. present case, that the court have mis

We regret, in this case, the affirmance taken the application of their own rule, of the principles of the charge in the and thus, as it seems to us, have pre- court below by a court of such high chasented the whole case in a most unfor- racter, although done in a mode, and tunate aspect-very much in that of an for reasons, which show the high dignity excuse and an apology, if not a full jus- and purity of the tribunal, and do also tification of Lynch law, than which no- show, as it appears to us, that an unthing could have been further from its fortunate misapplication of the very intention.

principle upon which the case is deWe hope no one will be simple enough cided, must have occurred in the court to suppose that we feel any other than below. We know the learning and the most unqualified disgust and con- ability of the court from which the tempt for such sentiments as were ex decision comes ; and we are always pressed by the plaintiff, on the occur- proud to welcome its members among rence of the most disgraceful, as well as our most esteemed friends ; but we canthe most unfortunate event, which has not shut our eyes to the fact, that the ever occurred in our past history. The substantial damages in this action were only possible mode of accounting for blinked out of sight, and disregarded such folly, in speech, is that folly on one by the jury, upon grounds which are side naturally leads to counter folly upon flagrantly in violation of the leading the other, and despotic public opinion doctrine of the decision, viz., that actual naturally provokes foolish words. But and compensatory damages cannot be we trust it is not needful to inform the denied upon any ground of provocation



short of an actual justification of the quest to charge, and not upon the third, assault, battery, and fi:Ise imprisonment, except so far as it tended to show that which was not attempted in this action. the defendants acted under a misappre

The testimony offered and received in hension of the law, and in good faith; mitigation of damages in this action, for punitive or exempla damages are might well enough have been received, not given with any reference to the plainupon the question of punitive or exem- tiff's misconduct, within the limits of plary damages, but it was not of a very the law, but solely on account of the satisfactory character upon that head malice and wanton misconduct of the

The only portion of it which defendants, and to admonish them, and seems to afford any just apology for the others in like case, not to repeat the misfingrant misconduct of the defendants, conduct. Is there anything in the plainwas the stupid blunder of the provost- tiff's folly and bravado, naturally calcumarshal in directing the plaintiff to be lated to induce the defendants to believe 6 detained.” This had some fair ten- they had any legal right to deal with dency to vindicate the good faith of the him in the manner they did ? Was not defendants in arresting the plaintiff. then the charge of the court, and the But what can be said of their after-con- result of the trial, directly caleulated to duct in forcibly carrying the plaintiff encourage such abuses of right, such three miles, and dragging him before a flagrant breaches of the law? Was not town meeting, and sentencing him to the conduct of the defendants malicious, take an oath to support the Constitution wanton, and intentionally insulting and of the United States ? They might, with abusive? Can there be more than one the same propriety, have sentenced him opinion on these subjects? And was to be hanged, or burned to death. And not the charge in the court below, the if they had done so and carried the sen- verdiet of the jury, and the overruling tence into execution, and been indicted of the exceptions, all calculated to enfor murder, they should, so far as we courage such conduct, and to discourage can see, upon the principle of this deci- such actions? If so, can we fairly exsion, have been permitted to show the pect parties suffering like indignities to plaintiff's provoking bravado talk in appeal to the tribunals for redress? Aud mitigation of punishment-or possibly will not the result of such experiences, to reduce the verdict from murder to in courts of justice, sooner or later, end manslaughter.

in a resort to force in all such cases? It does not seem to us that such evi- These are plain questions, but they are dence should have been permitted to go fundamental to the very existence of to the jury, upon either the first or frec states and private liberty, both of second point made in the plaintiff's re- person and speech.

I. F. R.


Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.


The platform of a railroad company at a station is in no sense a public highway. There is no dedication to public use as such.

The platform is for the accommodation of passengers, and being unenclosed, persons have the privilege but have not the legal right of walking over it for other purposes.

The owner of property is not liable to a trespasser or to one who is on it by mere permission or sufferance, for negligence of himself or servants, or for that which would be a nuisance in a public street or common.

To persons who come on to a platform to meet or part with passengers, or who stand in such relation to the company as requires care, the company is bound to have the structure strong enough to bear all who could stand upon it.

The owner is bound to have the approach to his house sufficient for all visitors on business or otherwise, but if a crowd gathers on it to witness a passing parade, &c., and it breaks down, though not sufficient for its ordinary use, he is not liable to one of the crowd who might be injured.

ERROR to the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria county.

This was an action on the case for injuries sustained by the plaintiff by the breaking down of a platform of the defendants at the Johustown station, Cambria county.

The declaration contained four counts. The first count charged that the defendants, being a corporation for conveying freight and passengers, and having the sole control of the passenger depots, platforms, &c., along the road for the mutual accommodation of themselves and the public, built a platform at the Johnstown station, bridging a chasm over the bed of an abandoned canal, on which large numbers of people were in the habit of congregating,

as a matter of general custom ;” and it was the duty of the defendant to construct the platform so as to make it safe and keep it in good repair; that it had come to the knowledge of the defendants that the timbers of the platform were rotten, and “insufficient to support a large multitude of people," but that they notwithstanding insufficiently repaired it; that on the 16th of September 1866, “on the occasion of the visit of Andrew Johnson, President, &c., and suite, to Johnstown," the defendants furnished a special train, and made a special time-schedule for their accommodation, by which the train was required to stop a longer

| We are indebted for this case to P. F. Smith, Esq., State Reporter.- ED. AM. L. R.

time than usual for passenger trains at Johnstown, &c., the company notifying the people at Johnstown and vicinity of the time of arrival and departure of the train at Johnstown, the stoppages being made by the direction of the defendants to give the people an opportunity of receiving Mr. Johnson and hearing him; that it had been publicly made known that wherever Mr. Johnson and his company had stopped large numbers of people congregated, and thereupon it became the duty of the defendants “ to have the platform aforesaid made sufficiently strong to bear and uphold as many people as might congregate thereon on the occasion aforesaid;" that the defendants, knowing the insecure condition of the platform, did not use due diligence to have it made secure, but permitted and invited “a large multitude of people to congregate" thereon without notifying them or the plaintiff of its insecure condition ; that the platform broke and precipitated the multitude with the plaintiff into the chasm, by which he was injured and wounded. The second count averred that the company carried Mr. Johnson and his party by agreement and for hire, and that the platform was part of the company's highway; the count was otherwise substantially as the first. The fourth count averred that the plaintiff went to the station on the occasion of Mr. Johnson's visit, at the defendants' special instance and request ; that the train was not stopped at the usual place of stopping, but about two hundred yards beyond it, without giving notice to the people assembled, and to the plaintiff, and that the “plaintiff and the multitudle were compelled to change their position to get a better view of the party,” thereby causing them to congregate more numerously “on the insecure part of the platform;"-otherwise substantially as in the first count. The third count averred that the plaintiff was a passenger on the train, and got off the train on to the platform which broke, &c.

The facts necessary for an understanding of this case appear to be substantially the following :

At or near the Johnstown station of the defendants, their railroad crosses the canal constructed by the state, at an angle of about 25 degrees-the canal being now abandoned; the passenger station and its platform are further west than the canal; eastwardly of this platform is a township bridge over the canal; that part of the canal between the railroad track and the township bridge is also planked over, making a continuous platform from the passen

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »