In 4Front Engineered Solutions, Inc. v. Rosales, the appeals court in Corpus Christi, Texas concluded that evidence of applicable OSHA regulations can be relevant to demonstrate the standard of care owed to an individual in a personal injury case even though the same evidence cannot be used to establish negligence per se. No. 13-13-00655-CV, 2015 WL 1182462, at *21–22 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi Mar. 12, 2015). In other words, a violation of an OSHA regulation does not automatically establish negligence (negligence per se) but evidence of non-compliance with that regulation may be relevant when assessing whether a defendant breached a duty of care to prevent a foreseeable injury to a third party.
In 4Front, the injured worker, Rosales, was an independent contractor. 4Front had hired an electrician to perform repairs on a sign in front of 4Front’s business and, in turn, that electrician hired another electrician, Rosales, to help him. The two electricians used 4Front’s forklift while performing the sign repairs. Rosales was injured after the forklift tipped over and Rosales fell 25 feet. Rosales sued 4Front and the other electrician and obtained a jury verdict of more than $10 million. 4Front appealed on several grounds, including improper admission of various OSHA regulations.
4Front argued that the evidence and testimony concerning the OSHA standard should not have been admitted because it did not establish a standard of care and did not apply outside the employee/employer context. 4Front, 2015 WL 1182465, at *21. The appellate court agreed that an employer’s action or inaction contrary to OSHA regulations and interpretations is not necessarily per se negligence. Id.However, the court determined that OSHA regulations and interpretations can be relevant to establish the employer’s standard of care. Id. In the words of the appellate court, the evidence was relevant because the regulations are “the cumulative wisdom of the industry on what is safe and what is unsafe . . . . For the same reason, the evidence was also relevant as to the issue of proximate causation.” Id. at 22.
While this decision may be limited to a Texas appellate court, several jurisdictions also treat evidence of OSHA regulations as admissible, particularly regarding the standard of care element in negligence actions. See, e.g., Robertson v. Burlington Northern R. Co., 32 F.3d 408 (9th Cir. 1994); Ries v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., 960 F.2d 1156, 1162 (3d Cir. 1992); Albrecht v. Baltimore & Ohio R.R., 808 F.2d 329 (4th Cir. 1987); Donovan v. General Motors, 762 F.2d 701 (8th Cir. 1985).