I suspect a lot of product liability claims aren’t pursued because the injured person feels like they made a mistake. It’s unfortunate because product liability law takes into account the fact that users will fail to read the instructions, misunderstand the instructions or purposely bypass or disable safeguards.
User error encompasses actions or oversights that – while not strictly complying with manufacturers’ recommendations – are not grossly unreasonable. A good example relates to ladder setup.
Ladders are typically designed and manufactured to be set up facing a particular direction. However, many ladders don’t come with clear warnings or instructions (or those warnings or instructions are not stamped on the side of the ladder and ultimately are not read by the end user). As a result, these ladders are set up facing the wrong way.
One of the dangers associated with facing the ladder the wrong way (and climbing it when it’s set up the wrong way) is that the feet are designed to prevent slipping in one direction but not the other.
Even in cases like this where the user has set up the ladder the wrong way, it’s still possible to pursue a product liability claim based on the design of the ladder (for instance the design to prevent slipping in one direction but not the other) or the absence of conspicuous warnings about the ladder’s inherent limitations.
We’re working on a case right now involving a Keller ladder. There are hundreds of cases involving injuries caused by Keller ladders. Keller has a tangled history of bankruptcies and business transactions that basically move the assets of Keller from one entity to another.
The case we’re pursuing involves an accident resulting from a "false locking" accident. False locking accidents are common with certain types of Keller ladders.
Certain ladders within the Keller line are designed in such a way that it’s not obvious to the user whether or not the two sections of ladder are locked together. As a result, many users will climb the ladder, find the two pieces are not locked together and fall when the upper piece begins to slide.
There are reported cases holding that despite the user’s failure to ensure the two pieces of ladder are locked together that Keller is ultimately responsible for the injured person’s injuries because of the way the ladder was designed. The design is flawed because the user cannot tell by looking whether the ladder is locked or not.
If you were injured because of a defective product – and that includes a product that was either inherently defective or failed to include accurate instructions or warnings – it makes sense to speak with an attorney. It may be that you have a claim even if you have been told or feel like you did something wrong or contributed to your own injury.
(One note: Product liability claims are expensive to pursue. Unless you have medical bills exceeding $25,000.00 it probably isn’t going to be economical to pursue your case.)