The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that a district court properly barred the plaintiff from arguing during trial that her recreational vehicle (RV) as a whole was the defective product at issue. Aldridge v. Forest River, Inc., No. 10-2193 (7th Cir., decided March 8, 2011). The plaintiff was allegedly injured when she stepped from her RV and the step controller unexpectedly retracted. Because the plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the step controller was defective and the plaintiff responded to interrogatories by identifying the step controller as the product at issue, the court granted the defendants’ motion barring her from arguing to the jury that the RV was the product at issue.

According to the appeals court, the district court did not abuse its discretion; its “ruling was consistent with the nature of the litigation from the beginning of the case and it prevented surprise to the defendants regarding the nature of the case that they had been defending throughout the litigation.” The court also opined, “Plaintiff’s counsel would have this court believe that just as his client’s feet were pulled out from beneath her as she stepped out of her recreational vehicle, so was her case at trial when she was not allowed to present her theory of liability to the jury. The record does not support his argument.” The plaintiff evidently sought to change her theory after the trial court precluded her expert from testifying, finding him unqualified to offer an opinion as to the step controller’s purportedly defective design.