Williamson ex rel. Hudson v. Old Dominion Box Co., 205 N.C. 350 (1933)

Nov. 1, 1933 · Supreme Court of North Carolina
205 N.C. 350


(Filed 1 November, 1933.)

1. Master and Servant A b: C a — Employment of boy between 14 and 18 years old on duly issued certificate of welfare officer is not unlawful.

Where an employer, before employing a boy between 14 and 16 years of age, procures and in good faitb relies upon a certificate duly issued by the county welfare officer authorizing such employment, C. S., 5034, the employment of the minor is not unlawful, and the decision in Mc-G-oiuan v. Mfg. Go., 167 N. C., 192, is not applicable to an action brought by the minor to recover for an injury sustained in the course of his employment.

2. Master and Servant C a — Violation of C. S., 5033 must be proximate causé of injury in order to entitle employee to recover.

In order to make an employer liable in damages for an injury sustained by an employee between 14 and 16 years of age in being required to work more than 8 hours a day in violation of C. S., 5033, it must be shown that the violation of the statute was a proximate cause of the injury complained of.

3. Master and Servant C b — Evidence held insufficient to establish negligence on part of employer.

Where the evidence tends only to show that an employee between 14 and 16 years of age, engaged in an unhazardous duty, was injured by tripping over a lever to a machine placed outside of the provided passageway, without evidence that the machinery was negligently placed in the factory, and that he returned to work several days after the injury and was again similarly injured while attempting to use an elevator solely in a spirit of mischief, without evidence of any defect in the elevator is held insufficient to be submitted to the jury in an action against the employer to recover for the injuries.

*351Appeal by defendant from Oglesby, J., at July Term, 1933, of BaNdolph.


This is an action to recover damages for personal injuries suffered by plaintiff, while at work as an employee of the defendant.

The plaintiff was horn on 24 June, 1914. He was employed by defendant during1 the month of November, 1928, to work in its factory located in the town of Asheboro, N. C. Prior to his employment, he had completed the course of study prescribed by law for the fourth grade in the public schools of this State. He had procured from the welfare officer of the county a card authorizing his employment by the defendant. This card, showing his age, and the permission of the welfare officer for his employment was filed by the plaintiff with the defendant. The plaintiff, during his employment by the defendant, was required to work and did work ten hours per day.

The defendant is a corporation and is engaged in the business of manufacturing small.paper boxes. It has no complicated or dangerous machinery in its factory. The duty of the plaintiff as an employee of the defendant, was to stack the paper boxes manufactured by the defendant against the walls on the first floor of the factory, and from time to time to take paper boxes from the first to the second floor. He was not required to work and did not work at or near machinery. There was no danger in the work which the plaintiff was required to do. The process of stacking the paper boxes was simple, and required but little strength or skill. There was a stairway between the first and second floors of the factory, for the use of the employees. There was also an elevator between the two floors, which was used to carry trucks loaded with paper boxes from one floor to the other. This elevator was operated by the use of ropes. The operation was simple and required but little strength or skill.

On 2 February, 1929, while the plaintiff was at work on the second floor of the factory, he left the place at which he was required to work, and started to the elevator. He was running or walking fast to get to the elevator, before it was lowered by another employee. He passed a baling machine, which was located off the passage way to the elevator and tripped over an iron bar which was attached to the machine. This iron bar extended about three or four feet from the machine, but did not extend into the passage way to the elevator. The plaintiff did not see, but could have seen the iron bar, if he had looked carefully. Plaintiff fell to the floor and broke his arm. He was sent by the defendant immediately to a doctor, who set his arm and treated his injuries. He returned to his work the next day.

The plaintiff continued in the employment of the defendant until 10 April, 1929. On said day, while undertaking to operate the elevator *352by pulling one of tbe cords, plaintiff again broke bis arm. Tbe plaintiff was not required to operate tbe elevator, but in a spirit of mischief ran ahead of another employee of tbe defendant, and jumped upon tbe elevator, in an effort to move the elevator before tbe other employee could get to- it.

In bis complaint, tbe plaintiff alleged that bis injuries, both on 2 February and on 10 April, 1929, were caused by the negligence of tbe defendant as specifically alleged therein. These allegations were denied in tbe answer filed by tbe defendant.

Tbe issues raised by tbe pleadings were submitted to tbe jury, and answered in accordance with tbe contentions of tbe plaintiff.

From judgment that plaintiff recover of tbe defendant tbe sum of $500.00, bis damages as assessed by tbe jury, and tbe costs of tbe action, tbe defendant appealed to tbe Supreme Court.

I. G. Moser and J. C. Sedberry for plaintiff.

A. I. Feme and Fred W. Bynum for defendant.


Tbe plaintiff was over fourteen and under sixteen years of age at tbe time be was employed by tbe defendant to work in its factory, and also at tbe times be was injured while working as such employee. Before employing tbe plaintiff, tbe defendant, in good faith, procured, relied upon and placed in its files a certificate issued by the welfare officer of Randolph County, in accordance with tbe rules and regulations prescribed by tbe State Child Welfare Commission, authorizing tbe employment, C. S., 5034. Tbe employment was, therefore, not wrongful or unlawful. For this reason tbe decision of this Court in McGowan v. Mfg. Co., 161 N. C., 192, 82 N. C., 102, is not applicable to tbe instant ease. Tbe fact that the plaintiff was required to work and did work, during bis employment, ten hours per day, in violation of tbe statute, C. S., 5033, has no causal connection with bis injuries. It is only when tbe employment of a child is unlawful because in violation of tbe statute, that such violation is in itself evidence of actionable negligence; when tbe employment was not in violation of tbe statute, but tbe employee is required to work and does work more than eight hours per day, and is injured while at work, there must be evidence tending to show that tbe violation of tbe statute was a proximate cause of tbe injury; otherwise tbe plaintiff is not entitled to recover damages for injuries suffered by him while engaged in tbe performance of bis duties.

There was no evidence tending to show that defendant was negligent in tbe location within its factory of tbe baling machine, or that there was any defect in tbe elevator. After carefully considering all tbe evidence *353appearing in tbe record, we cannot escape tbe conviction tbat plaintiff’s injuries were caused by bis own negligence, and not by any negligence on tbe part of tbe defendant. Tart v. R. R., 202 N. C., 52, 161 S. E., 720.

There was error in tbe refusal of defendant’s motion for judgment dismissing tbe action as of nonsuit. For tbat reason, tbe judgment is