A federal court in Michigan has rejected, in part, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in a case seeking damages for injuries attributed to a ladder which allegedly failed during normal use due to a design defect. Picken v. Louisville Ladder, Inc., No. 11-13044 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Mich., S. Div., order entered July 29, 2013). The right side of the 8-foot ladder allegedly fractured while the plaintiff was standing on the fifth step from the bottom, sanding drywall overhead in a skylight. The plaintiff’s experts concluded that the failure was the result of a design defect.

According to the defendants, the experts generated a “worst-case scenario” to describe how the ladder failed—i.e., that the plaintiff would have had all of his weight on the right side of the ladder. The defendants argued that because the plaintiff was not situated solely on the right side of the ladder when it failed, the experts cannot establish that a design defect caused the injury. The court determined that this misstated the experts’ theory. The experts did not apparently contend that the only way the ladder could have failed was if all of the plaintiff’s weight was loaded on one side; rather, they opined that the ladder material was not intended to handle the stress placed on it during normal use. The court said, “[G]iven the facially reliable nature of the experts’ opinion that design defects in the ladder caused it to fail under Plaintiff’s normal use, summary judgment is not appropriate.”

The court granted the motion as to the plaintiff’s breach of implied warranty claim to the extent that the defendants requested that “the jury be instructed on a single theory of negligent design, rather than design defect and breach of implied warranty.”