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Breach of a statute gives rise to negligence per se if the persons harmed by that violation are within the intended protection of the statute and the harm suffered is of the type the legislation was intended to prevent.
John Zorgdrager filed suit against State Wide Sales, Inc., and its employee, Gary Allen, after he was injured when the forklift he was driving fell off State Wide's truck. State Wide filed a third-party complaint against Long Prairie Packing Co., Zorgdrager's employer, claiming Long Prairie was responsible for the employee's injuries because of improper supervision and failure to provide a safe workplace. Following trial, the jury, by special verdict, found Long Prairie 70 percent negligent, Zorgdrager 30 percent negligent, and State Wide not negligent. This appeal followed. Zorgdrager challenged the trial court's jury instruction on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and the trial court's order denying his motion for a new trial on the basis of surprise. He also contended that the evidence required reversal of the jury's special verdict finding State Wide not negligent.
Did the trial court err in instructing the jury that violation of an OSHA regulation constituted negligence per se?
The court held that the trial court properly instructed the jury that violation of an OSHA regulation constituted negligence per se because the applicable criteria had been met and no justification or excuse was established. The court also ruled that the evidence that Zorgdrager was driving the forklift faster than necessary allowed the jury to reasonably conclude that he was contributorily negligent and that the employer's failure to ensure that chocks were placed behind each rear tire constituted negligence.