In Stuhlmacher v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., plaintiff was injured in November of 2008 while building a cabin for his parents. The cabin was in Sullivan, Indiana. A few days before his accident, plaintiff purchased a four-legged stepladder from a big box hardware retailer, so he could work on the roof.
During his first time using the ladder, it fell from the side of the house. He grabbed onto the rafters and then fell to the ground on the right front rail of the ladder. His groin made contact with the ladder when he fell. He suffered a shoulder injury, but his most serious personal injury was to his penis. His doctor diagnosed plaintiff with Peyronie’s disease.
Peyronie’s disease is painful condition that causes one’s penis to become bent, which among other things prevented plaintiff from having sexual intercourse with his wife.
As our Boston personal injury attorneys can explain, when a victim of a personal injury is no longer able to have a normal intimate relationship with his or her spouse, the law provides a remedy known as loss of consortium damages, which can be awarded to the victim’s spouse.
Shortly after this accident occurred, plaintiff became aware the ladder had come apart on the rear spreader bracket and had not simply fallen over. Plaintiff and his wife brought a personal injury lawsuit against the retailer for selling a defective product that caused an injury. An experienced injury attorney knows it’s possible to also sue the manufacturer of a defective product, the law allows plaintiffs to sue the retailer, as that is easier for an injured plaintiff to do in many cases. If the retailer feels a distributor or manufacturer is actually to blame, they typically have the resources to bring that party into the action. This is known as suing up the supply chain.
During the case, plaintiff used a mechanical engineer to offer expert testimony as to the cause of the accident. His opinion was the manufacturer did not construct the ladder in accordance with the design plans. Specifically, two rivets were not placed properly, and those rivets caused the ladder to bend and ultimately collapse. Defendants moved to dismiss this testimony on grounds that it was not proven to be reliable under the rules of government expert testimony. The judge denied this motion and allowed expert to testify.
After his testimony, trial judge excused the jury and asked if the ladder collapsed while he was standing on it or after the accident. Expert said he was not sure but believed that, even if the ladder were to collapse while plaintiff was standing on it, he likely felt the shift from the imminent collapse and moved to the left, causing the ladder to fall.
Trial judge found this did not make sense in light of plaintiff’s testimony that he suddenly fell, and the judge struck all expert testimony and dismissed the case. On appeal, the court concluded this was an error. The jury could have made that same conclusion; or, they could have concluded all testimony made sense and found for plaintiff. The court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.
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