Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Workmen's Compensation


John M. Cate

First Page



A review of the past year in Workmen's Compensation in Tennessee must of necessity take into account any legislative change in the Compensation Act itself' as well as trends disclosed through the decisions of the courts. The modern development and growth of this new theory, that of liability without fault, make pertinent the inquiry. Although a development of one generation, the theory of Workmen's Compensation is now almost universal in application. Under it, industry bears its fair share of the cost of injuries to workers, without any reference to fault or blame or negligence, where there is a reasonably apparent relationship of the injury to the job. Its adoption was a revolt from the disastrous results to the injured worker in an overwhelming majority of industrial accident cases of a strict application of the common law rules of contributory negligence, fellow servant's negligence and assumption of risk.

Faced with more than a century of judicial precedent that one person's liability to another was based on fault or negligence, the courts at first tended to a strict construction of such enactments; but the modern trend is to construe the compensation acts liberally to protect the worker and his dependents. Tennessee courts long ago joined with the majority of courts of other jurisdictions in adopting this rule of liberal construction to effectuate the humane objects of such enactments, resolving in favor of the injured employee any reasonable doubt as to whether the injury to such employee arose out of or in the course of his employment. This approach is evident in several of the recent decisions of the Supreme Court hereinafter referred to.