Common-Law Defenses

If sued by an employee for a workplace injury, companies would use certain finger-pointing tactics to evade responsibility, called common-law defenses. They included:

  • Fellow servant rule — The employer is not found liable because the injury was the fault of the injured worker’s co-worker, or fellow servant
  • Contributory negligence — The employer is not found liable because the injury was partially the injured worker’s own fault; he/she contributed to the negligence that caused the injury
  • Assumption of risk Hey, it’s a dangerous job! The employer is not found liable because the worker is said to have known of the risks of the job ahead of time but had chosen to assume the risk anyway