Northern Labor Law and Southern Slave Law: The Application of the Fellow Servant Rule to Slaves
National Black Law Journal, Vol. 11, No. 2, 1989
21 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2009
Date Written: 1989
This article is about the labor theory of respondeat superior, and how its application in the north differed from that in the slave south. The courts at the time held that actions of fellow servants, or coworkers, were best managed among the employees and employers were not liable for any resulting injuries occurring on the job. These employees assumed the risk of employment, and could protect themselves by monitoring their fellow servants. The south rejected the fellow servant rule because it threatened the stability of slavery and undermined racial control. If the rule existed, and slaves were able to protect themselves by undermining, questioning, or rejecting the orders of their fellow servants, slaves would be elevated to the same level of white laborers. The loss of the fellow servant rule caused disadvantages to the south that did not exist in the north: costly accidents, the special care needed to protect rented slaves from danger leading to industrial inefficiency, and a climate of hostility toward industrialization.
Keywords: respondeat superior, fellow servants
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation