The hirer of a slave who administered "cruel and unreasonable" punishment was guilty of trespass and liable to the owner.
If the same owner had been paid for the slave's hire, he still had grounds for trespass if the hirer had inflicted "cruel and unreasonable" punishment.Facts of the Case
Dixon S. Hall hired Simon to Elias B. Goodson at $120 for the year 1855. In June the slave ran away, was captured, and returned to Goodson, who whipped him so severely that he was permanently scarred. Hall subsequently accepted payment for Simon's hire, but afterwards sued Goodson for trespass. The Autauga County Circuit Court charged the jury that Hall could not recover if he had accepted payment for the hire.Hall's Argument
Before the Alabama Supreme Court, Hall argued that acceptance of payment did not imply a waiver of his right to sue for trespass, although it could imply a waiver in cases of wrongful conversion.Goodson's Argument
Goodson's argued that Hall had neither the actual possession nor the right of possession of the slave at the time the punishment took place, so he could not sue for trespass. Furthermore, by accepting payment he had waived his right to sue.The Court's Opinion
Judge George W. Stone wrote the decision for the Alabama Supreme Court. He noted the court's decision in Nelson v. Bondurant (26 Alabama 341), which ruled that the owner delegated the right to punishment to the hirer, but retained the right to sue for trespass if the punishment were "barbarous or cruel." Receipt of the full hire did not alter the owner's right to sue for trespass, for the hirer had not bargained for the right to inflict "barbarous or cruel" punishment.
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