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Lamson v. American Axe & Tool Co

Citation. 1Lamson v. American Ax & Tool Co., 177 Mass. 144, 58 N.E. 585.
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff was struck with a hatchet while working for Defendant. Plaintiff warned Defendant of the dangerous condition. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

If an employee knowingly works in a dangerous situation, the employer is not liable for the inevitable accident, because the employee is assuming the risk.


Plaintiff was a hatchet painter in Defendant’s hatchet shop. Plaintiff had worked for Defendant many years. After being painted, hatchets were hung from pegs on a hatchet rack. The motion of nearby machinery jarred the hatchet rack. A hatchet fell off its peg and struck Plaintiff. Plaintiff sustained personal injuries. About a year before the accident, new racks had been substituted for those previously in use. The new racks were less safe. Plaintiff complained to Defendant that the hatchets were more likely to drop off than when the old racks were in use. Defendant told Plaintiff to use the new racks or leave. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence.


Is Plaintiff barred from recovering damages against Defendant for negligence if Plaintiff assumed the risk of a hatchet falling?


Yes. Judgment affirmed.
* Plaintiff, as shown in the presentation of his own evidence, appreciated the danger more than anyone else. It was perfectly clear to him what was bound to happen. The falling of the hatchet did not require the doing of some negligent act. Plaintiff assumed the risk.


This case discusses the defense of assumption of risk. In this case, it was very clear what was going to happen to Plaintiff, if he continued to work. Plaintiff understood this and continued to work anyways. Plaintiff assumed the risk. Modernly, Plaintiff would have brought suit for worker’s compensation.

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