Thornton v. RCA Service Co., Inc.

Decision Date02 July 1949
Citation221 S.W.2d 954,188 Tenn. 644
PartiesTHORNTON v. RCA SERVICE CO., Inc., et al.
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

Appeal in Error from Circuit Court, Knox County; Wm. C. Burton Judge.

Workmen's compensation suit by J. A. Thornton against RCA Service Company, Inc., and others. From a judgment dismissing the petition, J. A. Thornton appeals in error.


Hodges & Doughty and R. T. Mann, Knoxville, for plaintiff in error.

Jennings O'Neil & Jarvis, Knoxville, for defendants in error.


The question here is whether the injury received by Thornton arose out of and in the course of his employment by RCA Service Company and, therefore, compensable under our Workmen's Compensation Act. Code, § 6851 et seq. Thornton's petition seeking compensation relates the origin, time, place and circumstances under which the injury occurred. The employer demurred to this petition on the theory that the facts alleged do not bring the case within the Act. The Circuit Judge took that view of the matter sustained the demurrer and dismissed the petition. Thornton has appealed.

According to the allegations of the petition, Thornton's employment by RCA necessitated travel by him from one job and town to another job and town. On the occasion in question, he was driving from Norris to Knoxville where he was to do certain work. The lunch hour arrived during the course of his journey, so he stopped at a restaurant of his choice along the way. While he was seated at a table in this restaurant awaiting the food which he had ordered, a stranger who was insane, or drunk 'or otherwise irresponsible' made an entirely unexpected, unprovoked and violent attack upon him, and inflicted the injury for which he here seeks workmen's compensation. His insistence is that this is an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment.

Consideration of the question may be started with recognition of the fact that Thornton would not have been in that particular restaurant on this occasion if he had not been traveling from Norris to Knoxville for the purpose of performing the duties of his employment. This, however, is not sufficient. The injury must arise 'out of' the employment as well as 'in the course of' employment. Hendrix v. Franklin State Bank, 154 Tenn. 287, 290 S.W. 30. The mere presence at the place of injury because of employment will not result in the injury being considered as arising out of the employment. Scott v. Shinn, 171 Tenn. 478, 483, 105 S.W.2d 103.

The thorough briefs refer to some of our cases and some from other jurisdictions wherein the injury resulted from an act other than an assault upon the employee. However, in our own reports are a number of decisions deciding when such an assault entitles the employee to workmen's compensation. Since these cases are exactly in point, thus controlling here, nothing directly beneficial will result from a discussion of cases wherein the injurious act was not an assault.

In Chamber of Commerce v. Turner, 158 Tenn. 323, 325, 13 S.W.2d 318, United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co. v. Barnes, 182 Tenn. 400, 187 S.W.2d 610, Whaley v. Patent Button Co., 184 Tenn. 700, 202 S.W.2d 649, this Court held that the injury received by the employee as a result of the assault was compensable because there was in each of these cases a causal connection between the employment and the assault. There is no similarity between the facts of any of these cases and the one at bar. They are pertinent here only by way of illustration of the rule that the injury is held to be one arising out of the employment, hence compensable, if a causal connection appears between the employment and the assault, or the assault was a risk peculiarly incident to the particular employment.

On the other hand, this Court has consistently held that where there was no causal connection between the employment and the assault or the assault was not the result of a risk incident to the particular employment, then the assault did not arise out of the employment and was not compensable.

In McConnell v. Lancaster Brothers, 163 Tenn. 194, 42 S.W.2d 206, the employee was killed in the course of his employment by reason of a personal argument with his assailant. His death was held not to be compensable because there was no connection between the employment and the difficulty except that it occurred 'at a time and place when and where McConnell [the employee] was at work.'

In Porter v. Travelers' Insurance Co., 163 Tenn 526, 43 S.W.2d 1066, it was the duty of the employee, Porter, to put his employer's team in the barn at the close of his day's work in delivering ice, and then to take the ice money he had collected that day to the office of his employer. While performing these duties at the time and place required he inadvertently, and without fault, came upon a group of Negroes who were being robbed by another Negro. Seeing Porter, the robber included him in the group and demanded his money. Then in shooting at another darky, he hit and killed Porter. Porter's death was held not compensable, this Court saying, 163 Tenn. at pages 530-531, 43 S.W.2d at...

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20 cases
  • Gravette v. Electronics
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 29, 2014
    ...finished a customer visit in Morristown, killed as he crossed street after leaving a fishing tackle shop); Thornton v. RCA Serv. Co., Inc., 188 Tenn. 644, 221 S.W.2d 954 (1949) (employee stopped for lunch at highway restaurant between Norris and Knoxville and was killed by “a stranger who w......
  • PADILLA v. TWIN City FIRE Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • October 6, 2010
    ...S.W.2d 765, 770 (1966)); see Jackson v. Clark & Fay, Inc., 197 Tenn. 135, 137, 270 S.W.2d 389, 390 (1954); Thornton v. RCA Serv. Co., 188 Tenn. 644, 646, 221 S.W.2d 954, 955 (1949). Based on these settled holdings, this Court has repeatedly rejected a general application of the positional r......
  • Chaney v. Team Techs., Inc.
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • January 31, 2019
    ...or hazard peculiar to the work or be caused by a risk inherent in the nature of the work." Id. (citing Thornton v. RCA Serv. Co. , 188 Tenn. 644, 221 S.W.2d 954, 955 (Tenn. 1949) ).Emergency RuleTo meet the "arising out of" employment requirement, Chaney relies on the emergency rule adopted......
  • Bialecke v. Chattanooga Publishing Company, No. E2005-2560-WC-R3-CV (Tenn. 8/18/2006)
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • August 18, 2006
    ...than that of any other member of the public similarly situated in place and time is not compensable. See Thornton v. RCA Service Co., 188 Tenn. 644, 221 S.W.2d 954 (1949). "[A]n injury purely coincidental, or contemporaneous, or collateral, with the employment ... will not cause the injury ......
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