Last week, in Allen v. Sherman Operating Company, LLC, Cause No. 21-40913 (5th Cir. August 15, 2022), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reiterated that employers are not insurers of their employees’ safety, particularly for “hazards that are commonly known or already appreciated by the employee.”

Ms. Allen worked for Sherman for nearly a decade. During her time there, employees tripped on a phone cord daily, the Court quoting witnesses’ words: “employees tripping over the cord was a ‘daily thing.’”  Ms. Sherman herself moved the cord at least twice to avoid tripping over it.  Nevertheless, in 2018, Ms. Sherman tripped over the phone cord one time too many, injuring herself.  She consequently sued Sherman.  Sherman was granted summary judgment that the Fifth Circuit affirmed on the basis that Ms. Sherman clearly knew about the cord.  “Mrs. Allen knew this phone cord could be hazardous and had taken steps to make is safer in the past.  Sherman had no duty to warn of or fix a hazard generally known to its employees or to Mrs. Allen herself.  The phone cord was both.”

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