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Product Liability - Defective design of 32 foot extension ladder - Failure of sliding mechanism to lock - Fall from ladder - Wrist fracture - Herniated lumbar disc - Hip injury - Multiple surgeries performed.

Polk County, FL

The plaintiff was a 44-year-old man in March of ________, when he fell from a 32 foot fiberglass extension ladder manufactured by the defendant Green Bull, Inc., and provided by the co-defendant corporation which settled the plaintiff’s claims prior to trial. The plaintiff claimed that the ladder was defectively designed in that it could not be determined if the sliding extension section was properly locked. As a result, the plaintiff claimed that the top of the ladder slid down while he was using it, causing him to fall. The defendant maintained that the ladder was safe for its intended use and that the plaintiff caused the fall by failing to properly engage the lock for the extension before climbing the ladder.

The plaintiff was using the ladder to trim a tree at the time of the fall. The plaintiff claimed that the ladder had a tendency to remain extended without the rung-locks engaged when the ladder was fully extended. The plaintiff’s ladder expert testified that such a condition, coupled with the difficulty to visualize the locks from the ground, gave the user a false sense that the rung- locks were engaged.

While the ladder was fully extended, the plaintiff proceeded to climb the ladder. The ladder retracted causing the plaintiff to fall some 22 feet onto an asphalt deck. The plaintiff’s ladder expert testified that the ladder was defectively designed and failed to adequately warn the user of the false lock condition.

The plaintiff’s expert explained that, in addition to the ladder remaining extended in an unlocked condition, the ladder would also click at that point of extension giving the user a tactile and audile cue that the ladder was locked when in fact it was not. The plaintiff’s experts proposed modifications to the ladder’s design which included revised warnings which would have alerted the plaintiff to the hazards of the ladder overextending.

The proposed warnings were also designed to provide better visual cues to a user of when the ladder was in an overextended position.

The plaintiff was diagnosed with a fracture of his right dominant wrist as a result of the fall and underwent wrist surgery to repair the fracture. In addition, the plaintiff claimed that the fall caused a lumbar disc herniation and injuries to his left hip. The plaintiff underwent two lumbar surgeries, as well as hip replacement surgery which his orthopedic surgeons causally related to the fall. The plaintiff did not return to his prior employment as a machine operator and claimed a diminished future earning capacity as a result of the injuries sustained.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to properly lock the ladder and should have realized that the locks for the sliding extension were not properly engaged. The defendant’s orthopedic surgeon opined that the plaintiff’s hip and back conditions and the necessity for hip and back surgeries were not causally related to the subject fall. Evidence showed that the plaintiff had undergone prior treatment for back and hip complaints before the date of the fall.

The jury found for the defendant on both strict liability and negligence counts.

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