Document Type

Response or Comment

Publication Date



The Liability of Charitable Corporations for the Torts of their Servants.--This question was discussed quite fully in the last number of the REVIEW, pp. 552-559, under the title Liability of Hospitals for the Negligence of their Physicians and Nurses, particular attention being given to the reasons underlying the doctrine that charitable corporations are not liable for the negligence of their servants, provided proper care has been exercised in their selection, and to the limitations within which that doctrine should be confined. It was concluded that the true reason for the doctrine is not to be found, as many cases apparently hold, in the inviolability of trust funds, or, as some hold, in the exercise of a sound public policy, but rather in the contract relation which those who receive the benefits of the charity occupy toward such funds, and that the doctrine should be limited in its application to those who have expressly contracted that they will not hold the corporation liable for the negligence of its servants and those who, by accepting the benefits of the charity, impliedly contract that they will not, provided proper care has been exercised in the selection of such servants. Among the cases cited in support of the proposition that public charities are not liable for the negligence of servants on account of the inviolability of trust funds was that of Downes v. Harper Hospital, 101 Mich. 555, 6o N. W. Rep. 42, 25 L. R. A. 6o2, 45 Am. St. Rep. 427. Apparently this case stood for that doctrine. At all events, it had been frequently cited as authority for the doctrine. But in the recent case of Bruce v. Central Methodist Episcopal Church, decided by the Michigan Supreme Court, March 5, 1907, and reported in 110 N. W. Rep. ,951, the Downes Case is distinguished and its apparent doctrine materially limited. The writer of the note in the last number of the REVIEW had not, at the time of its preparation, seen the case of Bruce v. Central Methodist Episcopal Church, and did not have the advantage of the excellent opinions filed therein, but it is quite apparent that they were inspired by the exhaustive opinion that inspired the note, namely, that of JUDGE LOWELL in Powers v. Massachusetts Homaeopathic Hospital, 47 C. C. A. 122, io9 Fed. Rep. 294, 65 L. R. A. 372.