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Apodaca v. Allison & Haney - 57 N.M. 315, 1953-NMSC-048, 258 P.2d 711, 1953 N.M. LEXIS 982

Rule:

The safety device statute, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 57-907 (1941), was passed to compel employers to supply reasonable safety devices in general use for the protection of the workmen where safety devices are not specified by law. Only by observing it may employers avoid liability under it for compensable injuries to their employees. It is negligence to fail to do so if the facts render the act applicable.

Facts:

Decedent was engaged in the laying of a sewer line in the city streets. In the course of his employment, decedent entered a pipe with an electric lantern to caulk some pipe joints that had been overlooked. An explosion occurred with the decedent sustaining fatal injuries. While decedent's widow received worker's compensation benefits, she filed suit against decedent's employer, Allison & Haney, for additional compensation, alleging that Allison & Haney failed to use reasonable safety devices in general use for detecting and eliminating natural gases in violation of the safety device statute, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 57-907 (1941). Following trial, judgment was rendered in favor of the widow. Allison & Haney appealed.

Issue:

Was Allison & Haney liable to the widow for damages for its failure to supply reasonable safety devices for the protection of workers?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court concluded that the safety device statute was designed to compel employers to supply reasonable safety devices for the protection of workers. Where testimony established that safety devices were available and in general use but that the employer failed to supply such safety devices, the employer was negligent and was liable to the widow in damages.

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