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Court Upholds Jury’s Verdict Finding Manufacturer Liable for Defective Ladder

In a recent case, a federal appeals court found in favor of an Illinois man who alleged his ladder was defectively designed. The man fell off his ladder while he was replacing the screws on his gutter and suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident. He later suffered from seizures, dementia, and quadriplegia.

After the accident, he brought a lawsuit against the ladder’s manufacturer, claiming that the ladder was defectively designed and that the defective design had caused the ladder to collapse. He argued the company did not design the ladder to accommodate the weight of people at or near 200 pounds. He weighed 224 pounds shortly before the accident.

The case went to trial, and the jury found in the man’s favor. The jury awarded him over $11 million in damages. Afterwards, the manufacturer argued it was entitled to a new trial. It contended that the man did not present sufficient evidence that the manufacturer had defectively designed the ladder.

Defective Design Under Illinois Law

Under Illinois law, a plaintiff alleging defective design under a strict liability theory must prove:  1) the product has an unreasonably dangerous condition, 2) the condition was present at the time the product left the defendant’s control, and 3) the condition caused the plaintiff’s injury.

There are different tests that can be used to determine whether a product is “unreasonably dangerous.” Under the consumer-expectation test, the issue is whether a product failed to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect. In contrast, under the risk-utility test, the issue is whether a product’s risks outweigh its benefits. The risk-utility test considers a number of different factors, including the feasibility of alternate designs, whether the design conformed to industry standards, the utility of the product, the likelihood of injury, and the manufacturer’s ability to eliminate the unsafe condition.

The Court’s Decision

In this case, considering the risk-utility test and the consumer-expectation test, a federal appeals court concluded the jury could reasonably have found that the ladder was defectively designed. The court determined the man had presented sufficient evidence of the ladder’s defective design, including expert testimony that there was an alternative design that existed that the company could have used instead and that would have made the ladder safer. As a result, the jury could reasonably have concluded that the company’s design was defective. Accordingly, the appeals court upheld the decision and the judgment in the man’s favor.

Have You Been Injured?

The injury attorneys at Moll Law Group are skilled in guiding people throughout the United States through medical malpractice, product liability, motor vehicle collision, and other accident claims. In addition to seeking major verdicts and substantial settlements for our clients, we bring these cases in order to trigger social change in the form of bans on unsafe products, changed laws, and product recalls. We represent accident victims throughout the Chicago area, including in Naperville, Wheaton, Schaumburg, and communities across Cook County. Moll Law Group also can bring product liability cases in other states nationwide, including Texas, California, Florida, and New York. Call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us through our online form to set up a free consultation.

See More Posts:

Court Applies Government Immunity in Pedestrian Accident Case, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 13, 2017.

Trolley Accident in Philadelphia Injures Nearly 50, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 30, 2017.

Plaintiff’s Award Initially Reduced Due to Insurance Coverage but Restored on Appeal, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, February 6, 2017.

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