Bowersock v. Smith,
243 U.S. 29 (1917)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bowersock v. Smith, 243 U.S. 29 (1917)

Bowersock v. Smith

No. 172

Submitted February 1, 1917

Decided March 6, 1917

243 U.S. 29


A state may by law provide for the protection of employees engaged in hazardous occupations by requiring that dangerous machinery be safeguarded, and by making the failure to do so an act of negligence upon which a cause of action may be based in case of injury or death resulting therefrom.

Consistently with due process, the state may also provide that, in actions brought under such a statute, the doctrines of contributory negligence, assumption of risk and fellow servant shall not bar recovery and that the burden shall be upon the defendant to show compliance with the act.

Chapter 356 of the Laws of Kansas of 1903, Gen.Stats., 1909, §§ 4676-4683, as construed by the supreme court of the state, lays upon the owners of manufacturing establishments an absolute duty to safeguard their machinery, makes them liable in damages for injuries

Page 243 U. S. 30

or death of employees resulting from breach of the duty, and abolished the defenses of contributory negligence and assumption of risk. Held that the statute was not rendered violative of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by application to the case of an employee who had contracted with the owner to provide the safeguards the absence of which resulted later in his injury and death. The statute makes the duty to provide safeguards absolute in the case of corporate as well as individual owners, and hence affords no basis for a contention that it denies the equal protection of the laws in permitting the former, while forbidding the latter, to escape liability by contract.

95 Kan. 96 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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