CACI No. 415. Employee Required to Work in Dangerous Situations

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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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/nonbinary pronoun] 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/nonbinary pronoun] work demanded. You
should also consider whether [name of plaintiff]’s job required [him/her/
nonbinary pronoun] 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 laborers 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
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, § 1484
2 Wilcox, California Employment Law, Ch. 30, Employers Tort Liability to Third
Parties for Conduct of Employees, § 30.04 (Matthew Bender)
21 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 248, Employers Liability for
Employee’s Torts, § 248.14 (Matthew Bender)
33 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 380, Negligence, § 380.172
(Matthew Bender)

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