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Mayhew v. Sullivan Mining Co


    Citation. Mayhew v. Sullivan Mining Co., 76 Me. 100, 1884 Me. LEXIS 21 (Me. 1884).

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff, an independent contractor, worked in Defendant’s mineshaft on a platform. Plaintiff fell through a ladder-hole and was seriously injured. The court refused to allow Defendant’s questions pertaining to industry custom to be asked.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Industry Custom is not a defense for gross negligence.

    Facts. Plaintiff, an independent contractor, worked in Defendant’s mineshaft on a platform. Plaintiff claimed that Defendant negligently cut a hole for a ladder-hole in the platform without placing any rail or barrier about it, or any light or other warning there and without giving Plaintiff proper notice of it. Plaintiff fell through the ladder-hole and was seriously injured. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence. The court refused to hear Defendant’s questions pertaining to industry custom. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. In an action for negligence, is it proper for Defendant to ask questions which pertain to the customs of an industry?

    Held. No. Judgment for Plaintiff affirmed.
    * Defendant claims that favorable answers to questions, which ask if Plaintiff “had ever seen a ladder-hole in a mine, below the surface, with a railing around it,” would have tended to show that there was no want of “average ordinary care”
    * Even if Defendant was able to show that there were no railings around ladder-holes, ever, it would not show that the act was consistent with ordinary prudence or a due regard for the safety of Plaintiff. Industry Custom and usage have no proper place in the definition of ordinary care.

    Discussion. Here the court stated that customs within an industry do not prove or disprove the standard of care required – ordinary prudence.



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