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DiSalvatore v. United States

499 F. Supp. 338 (1980)

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DiSalvatore v. United States

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

499 F. Supp. 338 (1980)

Facts

Michael DiSalvatore (plaintiff) was a construction worker removing planks for an elevator shaft, which was a two-man job. However, DiSalvatore continued removing planks while his teammate was not present because an unwritten rule of construction work is that an idle employee can be immediately fired. The elevator shaft did not have a safety net or other safety device. While working alone, DiSalvatore fell into the open shaft and died. DiSalvatore’s estate sued the United States (defendant) for negligence. Testimony from coworkers William Simpson and Harry Rolf conflicted as to how many boards remained and where DiSalvatore was standing when he fell. However, Simpson and Rolf both testified that the planks were uneven, difficult to walk on, and easy to slip on, and that a worker who slipped would likely fall into the open shaft. After a bench trial, Chief Judge Lord rendered a verdict in favor of the U.S., finding DiSalvatore guilty of contributory negligence. DiSalvatore’s estate then moved for a new trial, and following oral arguments, the chief judge concluded that he had applied the incorrect standard of law and granted the estate’s motion.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lord, C.J.)

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