One would think the most dangerous aspect of hunting would be the firearm. Or perhaps even the wild animals. But in fact, one of the leading causes of injury for hunters is the tree stand.
Tree stands – also sometimes referred to as “deer stands” are platforms used by hunters. They are secured to the tree in order to raise the hunter up higher for a better vantage point.
However, there are many cases every year in which a hunter falls from one of these stands, resulting in severe or sometimes even catastrophic injuries. Not all tree stand falls may be ripe for litigation. But if the reason the hunter fell has to do with a defective design of the tree stand product, compensation from the manufacturer may well be in order.
In the recent case of Bradley v. Ameristep, Inc., a Missouri hunter suffered serious injuries after the tree stand he was using gave way. The ratchet straps had been degraded by exposure to the sun from the previous season. But it had only been used in the season prior, and there was no label on the product that indicated this kind of degradation would be a concern.
According to court records, hunter bought the ratchet straps to use in conjunction with a tree stand he already owned. He used the straps to secure the stand right after he bought them sometime in early September 2008. He used them during that hunting season until about mid-October. The straps were exposed to the elements at this time, as one would expect in the course of normal use.
After that hunting season, plaintiff took the ratchet straps and the tree stand down and stored both in his garage. That’s where they stayed until spring 2011. He set up the tree stand at that point after inspecting the straps, but he didn’t attempt to actually use it again until the following autumn. On the first day of the season, he went out and visually inspected the straps and stand before climbing in.
However, within just a few minutes, the straps broke and plaintiff fell. He sustained serious injuries.
He and his wife filed a product liability lawsuit, alleging the manufacturer negligently designed the product by failing to include with it an ultraviolet light inhibitor and also by failing to warn of the danger of weather degradation.
Initially, trial court granted defense motion for summary judgment after excluding the expert witness testimony of plaintiff’s two primary witnesses. One was slated to testify about the importance of the ultraviolet light inhibitor and the other regarding the industry standard for warning consumers of weather exposure degradation on ratchet straps.
On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, allowing plaintiff’s expert witness testimony and remanding the case for trial. Although the court ruled plaintiff’s witnesses were qualified to testify on the technical aspects of the case, expert testimony wasn’t even needed to prove the case. All plaintiff had to show was the average consumer would not expect the straps to fail after a relatively limited weather exposure, particularly when there are no visible signs the straps were compromised and the company failed to give consumers instructions on how to check this.
Contact our Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.
Bradley v. Ameristep, Inc., Aug. 24, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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