ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR PORTO RICO.
MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the court.
The judgment here to be reviewed is one awarding damages to a widow for the death of her husband, caused by an electric shock received while he was adjusting an incandescent light in his residence in San Juan, Porto Rico. The case presented by the evidence produced upon the trial, which was to the court and a jury, was this:
The defendant was supplying the inhabitants of San Juan with electricity for lighting purposes, and had engaged to deliver at the deceased's residence a current suitable for lighting it. The electricity was conveyed along the street in front of his residence by a primary wire carrying a current of 2,200 volts, and by means of parallel or multiple converters the current was reduced to 110 volts and then carried to his residence and those of his neighbors by a secondary wire. These wires and converters were owned and controlled by the defendant, and the wiring and fixtures in the residence of the deceased were owned and controlled by him. On the occasion in question the current carried by the secondary wire, and by it communicated to the wiring in the residence of the deceased, became in some way greatly and dangerously increased in voltage, and it was because of this that he received the fatal shock. Had this current been maintained at substantially its normal standard, as was contemplated, it would not, in the circumstances, have done him any injury. He was not responsible for the increased voltage, and neither did he have reason to expect it.
There were no outside electric wires in that vicinity save those of the defendant, and the increased and dangerous current could only have come from its primary wire. About the time of the shock to the deceased two of his neighbors had trouble with a like current in their houses. One received a shock which felled him to the
floor and rendered him unconscious, and the other found the wires in his shop flashing, and on coming in contact with one of them was made unconscious and burned so that he was taken to a hospital for treatment. Shortly thereafter it was found that the ground or protecting wire leading from one of the converters to the earth was broken or severed and that the other converter was heated and out of order, the insulation being charred.
There was testimony tending to show that on the day preceding these shocks the primary and secondary wires and the converters had been examined by the defendant's inspector and found in good condition, but this testimony was greatly impaired upon the cross-examination of the inspector, who then said: "My inspection consisted in seeing that the poles and overhead trolley lines were in good condition. I just walked along and examined each pole, but did not climb them. When I came to the transformer [converter] I did not climb the pole and didn't look at the fuses. . . . No, sir; on that day I didn't look at the transformer any closer than I could see it from the ground. . . . There is no way you can tell from looking at the outside of the transformer whether it is in good condition or not."
There was also testimony tending to show that the wiring in the deceased's residence was not properly insulated or in good condition, but there was no claim that the defendant was responsible for this, and neither was there any evidence that the fatal shock resulted therefrom.
Much of the testimony was addressed to the questions, whether a current of unusual and dangerous voltage was communicated from the defendant's wires to the wiring in the residence of the deceased, and, if so, whether this resulted from negligence of the defendant in failing to exercise appropriate care in the maintenance and inspection of its wires and converters. This testimony was
admitted without objection, both parties tacitly treating it as within the issues.
That the fatal shock resulted, without fault of the deceased, from an unusual and dangerous current carried to his residence by the wires of the defendant was so conclusively established by the evidence that that part of the case might well have been covered by a peremptory direction to the jury; leaving them to determine, under appropriate instructions, the question of ...