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Stinnett v. Buchele

Citation. Stinnett v. Buchele, 598 S.W.2d 469 (Ky. Ct. App. 1980)
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Brief Fact Summary.

This is an appeal from a farm employee, Stinnett (Appellant) challenging a grant of summary judgment to his employer, Buchele (Appellee) in an action by Appellant for injuries suffered when he fell off a barn, which was painting. Appellant maintained that the injuries were sustained during the course and scope of employment, the employer, Appellee, had a duty to provide a safe work environment, and as a result, he was entitled to the recovery of damages.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

An employer cannot be required to guarantee an absolutely safe place of employment. An employer is required to take reasonable and prudent steps to ensure safety, and there is no responsibility for additional steps “where the employees’ means of knowledge of the dangers to be incurred is equal to that of the employer.”


The farm employee, Appellant, was injured when he fell off a barn roof and brought an action against the employer, Appellee, claiming negligence in the failure to comply with safety regulations requiring the installation of safety nets for work in elevated areas and failure to provide a safe place to work. The trial court granted summary judgment to the Appellee, because it determined that the safety regulations did not create an independent cause of action against an employer. Further, there was no evidence that the Appellee had sufficient familiarity with the circumstances at the farm location that he had a duty to the farm employee, Appellant, to discharge. Appellant asserted that Appellee was required to provide a safe work place. The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment, holding that under such circumstances, Appellee could not be required to guarantee absolute safety. Finally, the court concluded, when the employee’s knowledge is greater than the employer’s knowledge, the employer does not have a duty to the employee.


To what degree is an employer required to provide a safe working environment?


There was no showing of any negligence on the part of Appellee arising solely out of the fact that he had asked Appellant to paint the barn roof.


As the Stinnett court observes: “[t]he liability of the employer rests upon the assumption that the employer has a better and more comprehensive knowledge than the employees, and ceases to be applicable where the employees’ means of knowledge of the dangers to be incurred is equal to that of the employer.” Further, while several federal statutes provide for various forms of workers compensation, in certain instances employees are excluded from such protection, and must seek remedies through tort actions.

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