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Gyerman v. United States Lines Co.

Supreme Court of California
498 P.2d 1043 (Cal. 1972)


Facts

Gyerman (plaintiff) was employed as a longshoreman for Associated Banning Company. He was working in a warehouse owned by United States Lines Co (warehouse) (defendant), unloading bags of fishmeal. Fishmeal is a difficult substance to unload as the bags have a tendency to slip and fall easily. As a result, they are customarily stacked on pallets in piles with a limited height, and in a “brick-like” formation. Gyerman noticed that the fishmeal stacked by the warehouse was not laid out in this fashion. He expressed concern to a warehouse manager that this was unsafe, but was told nothing could be done. Gyerman’s contract provided that he did not have to engage in work he believed would result in danger, as well as a grievance procedure to determine whether a particular procedure is unsafe and resolve any safety issues. However, Gyerman did not take advantage of these procedures or speak to his own supervisor about his concerns. Gyerman was injured when approximately twelve bags of fishmeal fell on him. He brought suit against the warehouse for negligence. The trial court found that the warehouse’s negligence was the proximate cause of Gyerman’s injuries, but that Gyerman’s own contributory negligence in continually engaging in work he believed unsafe prevented him from recovery for damages. Gyerman appealed to the Supreme Court of California.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sullivan, J.)

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