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HAWKINS V. BLEAKLY, 243 U. S. 210 (1917)

U.S. Supreme Court

Hawkins v. Bleakly, 243 U.S. 210 (1917)

Hawkins v. Bleakly

No. 35

Submitted January 24, 1916

Restored to docket for reargument November 13, 1916

Reargued December 20, 1916

Decided March 6, 1917

243 U.S. 210


As an incident to the establishment of an elective workmen's compensation system which (by admission in this case) is free from constitutional objection, it is not violative of due process for a state to withdraw the common law defenses of assumption of risk, contributory negligence and negligence of fellow servants from those employers who voluntarily reject the system so established. New York Central R. Co. v. White, ante, 243 U. S. 188.

In such case, also, the state may constitutionally provide that, in an action against an employer who has rejected the Compensation Act, the injury shall be presumed to have resulted directly from his negligence and that the burden of rebutting the presumption shall rest upon him.

The provisions in § 3 of the Iowa Workmen's Compensation Law, Laws of Iowa, 35 G.A. c. 147; Iowa Code Supp., 1913, § 2477m, requiring employees who reject the act to state by affidavit who, if anyone, requested or suggested that course, and providing that, where an employer or his agent has made such request or suggestion, the employee shall be conclusively presumed to have been unduly influenced and his rejection of the act shall be void. Held permissible regulation in aid of the general scheme of the act.

A workmen's compensation act which, prescribing the measure of compensation and the circumstances under which it is to be made, establishes a method of applying the measure to the facts of each case by due hearings before an administrative tribunal, whose action upon all fundamental and jurisdictional questions is subject to judicial review, is not open to objection upon the ground that it clothes the administrative body with an arbitrary and unbridled discretion in violation of due process of law.

Trial by jury is not one of the rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Page 243 U. S. 211

Iowa was not part of the Northwest Territory, nor subject to the Ordinance of July 13, 1787, enacted for the government of that Territory (1 Stat. 51).

The act establishing Iowa Territory (June 12, 1838, c. 6, 5 Stat. 235) was but a regulation of territory belonging to the United States, and such provision as it adopted from the Ordinance of 1787 respecting the right of trial by jury, though declared to be unalterable without common consent, was but a part of that regulation, was subject to repeal, and was superseded by the state constitution when Iowa was admitted into the Union "on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatsoever."

Iowa is as much at liberty as any other state to abolish or limit the right of trial by jury, or to provide for a waiver of that right, as is done by the Workmen's Compensation Act, supra.

The Iowa Workmen's Compensation Act, supra, is held not to deprive the employer of equal protection of the laws in allowing him the common law defenses of assumption of risk, contributory negligence, and negligence of fellow servants only when he has accepted the act and the employee has not, while it withdraws them if employer and employee both, or employer alone, have rejected it.

220 F. 378 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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