[blocks in formation]

no material change in the act. While not governing the present action the amended statute has some bearing in construing the act in question, as it shows the consistent purpose of Congress to protect those who furnish labor or material in the prosecution of public work.

In considering the statute and determining the scope of the bond divergent views have been urged upon the court. Upon the one hand it is insisted that the bond is to be strictly construed and a recovery limited to those who have furnished material or labor directly to the contractor, and upon the other that a more liberal construction be given and a recovery permitted to those who have furnished labor and materials which have been used in the prosecution of the work, whether furnished under the contract directly to the contractor, or to a subcontractor.

This statute was before this court in Guaranty Co. v. Pressed Brick Co., 191 U.S: 416, and while the question whether surety companies which are such for compensation are entitled to the same strict construction of their rights and obligations as is accorded to private sureties, who become such without reward or profit, was left open, it was nevertheless said: “The rule of strictissimi juris is a stringent one, and is liable at times to work a practical injustice. It is one which ought not to be extended to contracts not within the reason of the rule, particularly when the bond is underwritten by a corporation which has undertaken for a profit to insure the obligee against a failure of performance on the part of the principal obligor. Such a contract should be interpreted liberally in favor of the subcontractor, with a view of furthering the beneficent object of the statute. Of course, this rule would not extend to cases of fraud or unfair dealing on the part of a subcontractor, as was the case in United States v. American Bonding & Trust Company, 89 Fed. Rep. 921, 925, or to cases not otherwise within the scope of the undertaking.

The courts of this country have generally given to statutes intending to secure to those furnishing labor and supplies for

[blocks in formation]


the construction of buildings a liberal interpretation, with a view of effecting their purpose to require payment to those who have contributed by their labor or material to the erection of buildings to be owned and enjoyed by those who profit by the contribution of such labor or materials. Mining Co. v. Cullens, 104 U. S. 176, 177. And the rule which permits a surety to stand upon his strict legal rights, when applicable, does not prevent a construction of the bond with a view to determining the fair scope and meaning of the contract in the light of the language used and the circumstances surrounding the parties. Ulster County Savings In. v. Young, 161 N. Y. 23, 30.

As against the United States, no lien can be provided upon its public buildings or grounds, and it was the purpose of this act to substitute the obligation of a bond for the security which might otherwise be obtained by attaching a lien to the property of an individual. The purpose of the law is, as its title declares: “For the protection of persons furnishing materials and labor for the construction of public works.” If literally construed, the obligation of the bond might be limited to secure only persons supplying labor or materials directly to the contractor, for which he would be personally liable. But we must not overlook, in construing this obligation, the manifest purpose of the statute to require that material and labor actually contributed to the construction of the public building shall be paid for and to provide a security to that end.

Statutes are not to be so literally construed as to defeat the purpose of the legislature. “A thing which is within the intention of the makers of the statute, is as much within the statute, as if it were within the letter." United States v. Freeman, 3 How. 556. “The spirit as well as the letter of a statute must be respected, and where the whole context of a law demonstrates a particular intent in the legislature to effect a certain object, some degree of implication may be called in to aid that intent." Chief Justice Marshall in Durousseau v. United States, 6 Cranch, 307.

Looking to the terms of this statute in its original form, and

[blocks in formation]

as amended in 1905, we find the same Congressional purpose to require payment for material and labor which have been furnished for the construction of public works. The affidavit to be fiłed with the head of the department under the direction of which the work has been prosecuted requires the affiant to state that labor or materials for the prosecution of such work has been supplied by him, for which payment has not been made, and such persons are given a right of action on the bond in the name of the United States. Language could hardly be plainer to evidence the intention of Congress to protect those whose labor or material has contributed to the prosecution of the work. There is no language in the statute nor in the bond which is therein authorized limiting the right of recovery to those who furnish material or labor directly to the contractor, but all persons supplying the contractor with labor or materials in the prosecution of the work provided for in the contract are to be protected. The source of the labor or material is not indicated or circumscribed. It is only required to be "supplied” to the contractor in the prosecution of the work provided for. How supplied is not stated, and could only be known as the work advanced and the labor and material are furnished.

If a construction is given to the bond so limiting the obligation incurred as to permit only those to recover who have contracted directly with the principal, it may happen that the material and labor which have contributed to the structure will not be paid for, owing to the default of subcontractors and the manifest purpose of the statute to require compensation to those who have supplied such labor or material will be defeated.

We cannot conceive that this construction works any hardship to the surety. The contractor gets the benefit of such work or material. It is distinctly averred in this case that the original contractor received the benefit of the work clone and it was used in part performance of his contract. It is easy for the contractor to see to it that he and his surety are secured against loss by requiring those with whom he deals to give security by bond, or otherwise, for the payment of such persons as furnish

[blocks in formation]

work or labor to go into the structure. In view of the declared purpose of the statute, in the light of which this bond must be read, and considering that the act declares in terms the purpose to protect those who have furnished labor or material in the prosecution of the work, we think it would be giving too narrow a construction to its terms to limit its benefits to those only who supply such labor or materials directly to the contractor. The obligation is to make full payments to all persons supplying it with labor or materials in the prosecution of the work provided for in said contract." This language, read in the light of the statute, looks to the protection of those who supply the labor or materials provided for in the contract, and not to the particular contract or engagement under which the labor or materials were supplied. If the contractor sees fit to let the work to a subcontractor, who employs labor and buys materials which are used to carry out and fulfill the engagement of the original contract to construct a public building, he is thereby supplied with the materials and labor for the fulfillment of his engagement as effectually as he would have been had he directly hired the labor or bought the materials.

We reach the conclusion that the labor and materials furnished in this case were within the obligation of the Surety Company on the bond, and in that view The judgment of the Superior Court is reversed and the cause

remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

Argument for Alabama Great Southern Railway Co. 200 U. S.





No. 58 Argued November 9, 1905.—Decided January 2, 1906.

A question certified must be one the answer to which is to aid the court

in determining a case before it. The right of a defendant jointly sued with others to remove the case into

the Federal court depends upon the case made in the complaint against the defendants jointly, and that right, in the absence of showing a fraudulent joinder, does not arise from the failure of complainant to establish

& joint cause of action. In determining whether a case may be removed by one defendant the

question is not what the rule of the Federal court may be as whether or not the action is joint, but whether the controversy is one made-removable

by Congress in § 2 of the act of March 3, 1887, August 13, 1888. A railroad corporation may be jointly sued with the engineer and con

ductor of one of its trains when it is sought to make the corporation liable only by reason of their negligence, and solely upon the ground of the responsibility of a principal for the act of his servant, though not personally present or directing and not charged with any concurrent act of

negligence. Such a suit is not removable by the corporation, as a separable contro

versy, even though the amount involved exceeds $2,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and the requisite diversity of citizenship exists between the said company and the plaintiff, if the citizenship of the individual defendants sued with the company as joint tort-feasors is identical with that of the plaintiff,

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Mr. Edward Colston, with whom Mr. Judson Harmon, Mr. A. W. Goldsmith, Mr. George Hoadly and Mr. Edmund F. Trabue were on the brief, for Alabama Great Southern Railway Company:

Parties cannot be guilty of a joint tort unless each has contributed to the harmful result. In the present case the company, itself, has not been an actor in that which caused the

« ForrigeFortsett »