Farm labourer wins compensation case

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At the Scarborough County Court John Thomas Walker, farm labourer, Staxton, claimed compensation from Watson Garbutt, Seamer, threshing machine proprietor, and George Lawson, farmer, Sherburn, under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

Mr Vernon Wragge, (instructed by Mr J Whitfield) appeared for the applicant, Mr Norman Crombie, of York, appeared for Mr Garbutt, and Mr Smith, of Bradford, represented Mr Lawson.

Mr Wragge, in opening the case for applicant, said on the 13th of March defendant was threshing at Mr Lawson’s farm, and about three o’clock Mr Lawson said “We will do a bit of chopping of hay and straw,” and then the engine of the threshing machine was connected with the chopper. The rollers of the chopping machine caught Walker’s smock on the left arm and drew it in and he lost his arm above the elbow.

Applicant was in the Scarborough Hospital for five weeks and when he left he saw Lawson, who said he would do all he could, and added “See what Garbutt will do.” When he saw Garbutt the latter said “You are not my man, you were working for Lawson.” Each of the assumed employers threw the blame upon the other, and for that reason the two respondents were brought together. The applicant estimated his wages and food at £2 10s a week, and as he was totally incapacitated he asked for £1 5s, £1 maximum under the earlier Workmen’s Compensation Act and 25 per cent increases as allowed by the Workmen’s Compensation (War Additions) Act, 1917.

Walker, in his evidence, said Lawson gave him 4s 6d a day, and his meal, and Garbutt paid him 1s each time the machine was moved from one place to another. He put his food down at 18s a week.

By Mr Crombie: He never took an insurance card to Mr Garbutt to put stamps on. What he did for Mr Garbutt would have been no good without the other work. The arrangements were made with a man named Tynegate, who could have dismissed him at any time and on the other hand he (applicant) could have left him if he wanted to 

If Mr Garbutt’s own chaff cutter had been used the accident could not have happened.

By Mr Smith: He knew that Tynegate was engaging him for the owner of the threshing machine. If the accident had not happened he would have left and gone to another farm. He was a necessary man for the working of the machine.

Mr Smith argued that on the man’s own statement and according to Reed and Wilkinson and other 
cases, Mr Lawson was 
out of the case.

Mr Crombie said there was a great distinction between his case and that of Reed, Smith and Wilkinson and Co. In that case three men were necessary but in this only two. In the case quoted all the machinery belonged to one firm - in this case a borrowed chaff cutter was used, which did not belong to Mr Garbutt. Mr Garbutt did not ratify its use.

The man was not on any time sheet. He merely got inside information as to where the machine was going and he utilised his knowledge by going with the machine and getting employment from the farmer.

It was not until 11 weeks after the accident that his client was brought in and then only after an interview with someone else who was interested in the case. Mr Crombie urged that Walker was fulfilling concurrent contracts of service and that when the accident happened he was in the employ of Mr Lawson. If Mr Garbutt was liable at all it was only for half of the five shillings.

Mr Watson Garbutt, the owner of the threshing machine, said it was understood that the man who acted as steerer of the machine should be employed by the farmer at the threshing.

Eventually His Honour gave a verdict against Mr Garbutt and fixed the compensation at £1 a week. His Honour pointed out that Mr Garbutt and the man himself said that the engine driver, a servant of Mr Garbutt, engaged the man. The man was temporarily lent by Mr Garbutt, to different people, and he was lent for the purpose of doing specific work - he was lent as feed man.

His Honour held that the man’s earnings were not 50s a week but 41s 6d. His Honour also held that Walker was not totally incapacitated, but he adopted the line taken in a previous case and allowed him 25 per cent increase on the award up to the hearing and he gave costs against Mr Garbutt.