California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

415. Employee Required to Work in Dangerous Situations

An employee required to work under dangerous conditions must use the amount of care for [his/her] own safety that a reasonably careful employee would use under the same conditions.

In deciding whether [name of plaintiff] was negligent, you should consider how much attention [his/her] work demanded. You should also consider whether [name of plaintiff]’s job required [him/her] to take risks that a reasonably careful person would not normally take under ordinary circumstances.

New September 2003

Directions for Use

This type of instruction should not be given in cases involving freeway collisions between private and commercial vehicles. (Shuff v. Irwindale Trucking Co. (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d 180, 187 [132 Cal.Rptr. 897].)

An instruction on this principle is “aimed at situations where the employment conditions lessen the plaintiff’s ability to take precautions.” (Von Beltz v. Stuntman, Inc. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1467, 1485 [255 Cal.Rptr. 755].) It does not apply where the plaintiff has ample opportunity to consider various precautions (ibid.) or when employees act pursuant to choice rather than necessity. (Roberts v. Guillory (1972) 25 Cal.App.3d 859, 861–862].)

Sources and Authority

  • This type of instruction “soften[ed] the impact of instructing on the issue of contributory negligence” (Young v. Aro Corp. (1974) 36 Cal.App.3d 240, 244 [111 Cal.Rptr. 535]) at a time when contributory negligence was a complete bar to a plaintiff’s recovery. The instruction may be given in cases involving comparative fault. (See, e.g., Johnson v. Tosco Corp. (1991) 1 Cal.App.4th 123, 136–137 [1 Cal.Rptr.2d 747].)
  • “It has long been recognized that ‘where a person must work in a position of possible danger the amount of care which he is bound to exercise for his own safety may well be less by reason of the necessity of his giving attention to his work than would otherwise be the case.’ [Citations].” (Austin v. Riverside Portland Cement Co. (1955) 44 Cal.2d 225, 239 [282 P.2d 69].)
  • “Considered in the light of the realities of his working life, the laborer’s duty may become considerably restricted in scope. In some instances he may find himself powerless to abandon the task at hand with impunity whenever he senses a possible danger; in others, he may be uncertain as to which person has supervision of the job or control of the place of employment, and therefore unsure as to whom he should direct his complaint; in still others, having been encouraged to continue working under conditions where danger lurks but has not materialized, he may be baffled in making an on-the-spot decision as to the imminence of harm. All of these factors enter into a determination whether his conduct falls below a standard of due care.” (Gyerman v. United States Lines Co. (1972) 7 Cal.3d 488, 501 [102 Cal.Rptr. 795, 498 P.2d 1043], citation omitted.)

Secondary Sources

33 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 380, Negligence (Matthew Bender)