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Teal v. Kings Farms Company.

December 28, 1960

VICTOR ALVAREZ TEAL, APPELLANT,
v.
KINGS FARMS COMPANY.



Author: Kalodner

Before McLAUGHLIN, KALODNER and HASTIE, Circuit Judges.

KALODNER, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff, Victor Alvarez Teal, appeals from an Order denying his motion for a new trial and judgment on a directed verdict for the defendant, Kings Farms Company, in his action to recover damages for severe injuries suffered in an assault on him by a fellow employee on defendant's farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Jurisdiction is based on diversity.*fn1 Pennsylvania law controls.

Plaintiff's theory, below and here, is that defendant breached its duty to adequately police his property so as to prevent injuries to persons thereon by any of its employees, and that defendant "was under an affirmative duty" to protect plaintiff from injury by a fellow employee because "of the socially recognized relations" between employer and employee.

The testimony adduced by the plaintiff is set forth in detail in the opinion of the District Court reported at 181 F.Supp. 235 (E.D.Pa.1960).

It may be summarized as follows:

Defendant owns and operates a farm comprised of some 6,500 acres, nearly half of it composed of lakes and ponds. The farm area is interspersed with a number of public roads. The farm lies partly in Tullytown Borough and partly in Falls Township (between Bristol and Morrisville). The police of both communities patrol the area frequently and there are occasional patrols by the Pennsylvania State Police. Defendant employes a full-time peace officer to patrol its farm.

Defendant employs between 125 and 500 help on its farm and augments its work force with occasional extra daily help up to 300 persons during July, the peak period of its operations. Defendant's employees are largely of Puerto Rican origin. They work in gangs of 20 to 30 under foremen in the cultivation and harvesting of crops. Defendant maintains cabins for both single and married employees and dining, social, religious and infirmary facilities.

Employees are required to complete job application forms and are interviewed by defendant's managerial officer; their backgrounds are checked insofar as possible.

One Vidal Cintron Gomez was employed by defendant as a laborer after completing the required application and being interviewed but his background could not be checked because he had only recently entered this country. It was ascertained that he had worked briefly in upstate New York subsequent to his entry.

On August 11, 1953 Gomez allegedly robbed, assaulted and severely injured plaintiff while the latter was in his cabin. Plaintiff's employment had terminated several days prior to the alleged robbery and assault but he had been granted permission by defendant to stay on a few days to wind up a private little business of selling odds and ends to his fellow workmen.

Gomez subsequently pleaded guilty in the Bucks County Court to an indictment charging him with assaulting plaintiff. Evidence to this effect was admitted by the District Court over defendant's objection. Plaintiff did not testify to the assault at the trial because of his physical and mental condition nor did any other witness. We note parenthetically that we do not concern ourselves here with the issue of the admissibility of evidence relating to Gomez's plea of guilty as establishing the robbery and assault; for the purpose of our disposition we shall assume the adequacy of plaintiff's proof of the robbery and assault by Gomez.

It may be added that a police investigation subsequent to the assault failed to disclose any prior criminal record as to Gomez. Further, there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by Gomez while he was in defendant's employ prior to the assault. It may be added that the testimony established that prior to the assault there was no ...


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