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An employer does not undertake absolutely with his employees for the sufficiency or safety of the implements and facilities furnished for their work, but only for the exercise of reasonable care in that respect, and where injury to an employee results from a defect in the implements furnished, knowledge of the defect must be brought home to the employer, or proof given that he omitted the exercise of proper care to discover it. Personal negligence is the gist of the action.
The employer contracted to paint the inside of the dome of the courthouse. The employer contracted with the scaffold-builder to build the necessary scaffold. The decedent was working on the curve of the dome, when the scaffold broke. The decedent fell to the floor below, and was so injured that he died soon after. The trial court dismissed the administratrix's negligence complaint.
Was the employer liable for the death of the decedent?
The court affirmed as to the employer and reversed as to the scaffold-builder. The court found that there was sufficient evidence to require the submission to the jury of the question of whether the failure of the scaffold was attributable to negligence in its construction. The question of contributory negligence on the part of the deceased was also one for the jury. There was no evidence of negligence on the part of the employer in selecting the scaffold-builder, nor was there any evidence that the employer knew or had reason to know of any defect in the scaffold. The scaffold-builder was not the agent or servant of the employer but an independent contractor for whose acts or omissions the employer was not liable.