James Murray v. South Carolina Railroad Company
26 S.C.L. 385, 36 Am.Dec. 268 (1841)

Facts:

  • Plaintiff was a fireman who lost his leg in a railroad accident.
  • He tried to warn the engineer of a horse on the tracks but the train ended up running it over.
  • He then brought a negligence suit against his employer.

History:
The jury awarded P $15,000 due to the negligence of the engineer.

Issue:
Whether a company can be liable to one servant for an injury arising from the negligence of another servant.

Holding:
No. Case reversed.

Reasoning:

  • “They are not liable to the company for the conduct of each other, nor is the company liable to one for the misconduct of another.”
    • Exception: If the negligent ee was unfit.
  • Liability must attach contractually.

Note: Most work injuries today are now compensated under workers’ compensation laws, so the fellow servant defense is rarely litigated (some courts have even abolished it).