HOOKS V. SMITH, 18 ALABAMA 338 (1850)


A slave hired under contract as a house servant could not be employed as a field hand.

If that slave were killed while working as a field hand, the hirer was liable for the slave's value.

Facts of the Case

In January, 1847, Joseph A. Smith, acting as guardian of the owners, hired a female slave to Hooks "for house service exclusively." In July, however, Hooks, having found the slave "rogueish, ill natured and unmanageable," put her to work as a field hand. While employed in this capacity, she was crossing a creek, fell in, and drowned. The case was first tried in Sumter County Circuit Court, but appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Court's Decision

Judge Silas Parsons wrote the decision for the Alabama Supreme Court. He ruled that Smith was entitled to recover the slave's value because Hooks had broken the contract in employing her as a field hand.

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