Mellor v. Ten Sleep Cattle Co

In Mellor v. Ten Sleep Cattle Co., 550 P.2d 500 (Wyo. 1976), the employee was injured while helping his employer and another individual move a heavy cabinet. The employee "was accustomed to this kind of general handyman employment," knew how heavy the cabinet was, and "was familiar with all of its other physical characteristics." After lifting the cabinet from the floor to an upright position, they began "walking" the cabinet towards the wall because the cabinet was so heavy that they could only move it a short distance at a time. While the individuals were taking a five to ten minute break, "the cabinet suddenly, and without warning, fell backward" and seriously injured the employee. Id. The employee sued the employer and, after a bench trial, the trial court concluded that the employer was not negligent and that the employee "was contributorily negligent and/or assumed the risk inherent in the moving operation." Id. at 503. On appeal, the employee questioned whether the record was sufficient to support the trial court's findings. He first claimed that the employer "violated his duty of care . . . by failing to furnish him a safe place to work, the result of which caused injury." Id. at 503. The conclusion was as follows: "We cannot say that the employer was negligent as a matter of law for not employing more men and having safety devices on the job. This we would have to do if we were to overrule the fact-finding trial court on this issue. We recognize that the care required is commensurate with the danger involved. But the trial court held the defendant to have discharged his duty of care under the facts. We have to ask--what would more tools or men have done to protect the employee? Would additional men not have been doing the same thing the employee and the employer were doing--taking a break while the cabinet stood motionless--until it fell for an unexplained reason? Nobody anticipated this unfortunate happening--including the employee--and there is no reason to believe that the employer should have anticipated the necessity of more tools and more men in order that this operation would be conducted safely. There were enough tools and men. The problem was that nobody anticipated the happening-nor were they bound to have anticipated it." (Id. at 504-05.)