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DEFENDANT''S Products liability - Alleged defective articulating ladder - Fall from ladder - Calcaneus fracture with surgery - Claimed inability to continue employment as roofer.

Orange County

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s Home Depot Store sold a defective ladder, which failed under the plaintiff’s weight causing the plaintiff to fall some eight feet. The defendant maintained that the failure of the ladder resulted from improper set up.

The ladder in question was an articulating 16-foot metal ladder which was several years old at the time of the accident. The plaintiff, a man in his late 30s to early 40s at the time, testified he was using the extended ladder in the course and scope of his employment as a roofer.

The plaintiff testified that he was approximately mid-way up the ladder, when he heard a snap or pop and the ladder collapsed under him and he fell to the ground. The ladder had been set up by one of the plaintiff’s coworkers. The plaintiff, as well as his coworker, testified that they inspected the ladder prior to use and found it to be properly set up.

The ladder was comprised of four sections with three sets of locking bolts to lock it in the straight position. The plaintiff’s engineer testified that the ladder was defective in that the locking bolts were of insufficient strength and a locking release bar was in an inappropriate position. The location of the release bar permitted a person to strike the release bar with his foot and cause it to rotate to the open position, according to the plaintiff’s expert. This expert opined that the locking bolts spontaneously backed out or the plaintiff accidentally struck the locking release bar while climbing the ladder, causing it to collapse.

The plaintiff sustained a calcaneus (heel) fracture in the fall. He underwent internal fixation of the foot. His orthopedic surgeon opined that future internal fixation of the ankle is also indicated. The plaintiff’s vocational rehabilitation expert testified that the plaintiff is unable to return to work as a roofer. The plaintiff was employed in a warehouse at the time of trial and claimed a diminished earning capacity.

The defendant’s engineer testified that the failure of the ladder was caused by improperly set up. This expert testified that there was a broken lock bolt on the ladder after the accident. The bolt broke because the hinge was placed backwards and put pressure on the bolt, according to the defendant’s expert. The defendant claimed that the middle hinge of the ladder was improperly facing outward when it is required to face towards the wall.

The jury found that the ladder was not defective.

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