Evidence of industry standards, customs, and practices is often highly probative when defining a standard of care. Safety standards promulgated by government or industry organizations in particular are relevant to the standard of care for negligence. Evidence of custom within a particular industry, group, or organization is admissible as bearing on the standard of care in determining negligence. A safety code ordinarily represents a consensus of opinion carrying the approval of a significant segment of an industry, and is not introduced as substantive law but most often as illustrative evidence of safety practices or rules generally prevailing in the industry that provides support for expert testimony concerning the proper standard of care.
Plaintiff sought review of a judgment in the Richland County Circuit Court (South Carolina), which, in a negligence action for injuries sustained by her daughter in a fall from school playground equipment, returned a verdict for the school district, arguing the trial judge erred in excluding evidence of playground industry standards and in charging the jury. The trial court precluded plaintiff's evidence of the Consumer Products Safety Commission's (CPSC) guidelines and the American Society for Testing and Materials' (ASTM) standards for playground safety based on the mistaken belief that defendant school district had to have adopted those national protocols before such evidence was admissible. The judgment of the lower court in favor of defendant was reversed and remanded because the trial court committed reversible error in refusing to admit relevant evidence of industry standards.
Did the trial court err in refusing to admit relevant evidence of industry standards?
The evidence of which the jury may consider is offered to be able to illustrate what safety practices prevail in the industry. This is used as a basis of what proper standard care is in relation to the case. The judgment of the lower court in favor of defendant was reversed and remanded because the trial court committed reversible error in refusing to admit relevant evidence of industry standards.