Several well-known ladder manufacturers have issued major product recalls in recent years for ladders or ladder accessories found to harbor flaws that pose serious safety risks—a shock to customers who trust these companies for high-quality products. Consumers have even found dangerous defects in ladders that weren’t recalled.
Why File Ladder Recall Lawsuits?
Victims of ladder injuries, including household users as well as professionals such as contractors, construction workers, and maintenance crew members, are filing ladder recall lawsuits after suffering injuries that led to:
- The need for multiple surgeries
- Extended hospital admittance
- Chronic pain
- Permanent disabilities
Appallingly, when such tragedies occur, manufacturers often try to exonerate themselves and place blame on the alleged victims, instead of stepping up to help them heal and recover by offering rightful compensation. But because manufacturers are responsible for providing reasonably safe products, consumers have the right to file lawsuits against companies who fail to uphold this duty.
Even After Recalls, Many Victims Lose Out
When ladder accidents lead to injuries, especially those that are life-altering in severity, victims can be subjected to significant pain, emotional trauma, and long-term health damage, or may even end up dead.
The injured consumer’s family is also often put through considerable suffering as well as financial burdens from missed days of work and medical expenses resulting from the accident.
Yet pleas for assistance or reimbursement are largely ignored by ladder manufacturers, judging from consumer complaint reports about various Werner and Louisville ladders. When manufacturers do admit fault in the form of a ladder recall, generally the most they will offer to compensate consumers is the price of a replacement ladder. Ladder accident victims who are unfairly denied a proper amount of compensation can fight for justice by taking legal action against manufacturers and ladder retailers.
Common Allegations From Accident Survivors
Ladder injury lawsuits are mostly based upon product liability law, which was established to protect consumers against defective products.
Product liability cases focus on a company’s failure or refusal to design, manufacture, and distribute a safe, working product. Also frequently scrutinized is the company’s obligation to provide sufficient safety warnings on labeling and product manuals, as well as to accurately portray the product and its potential risks in advertising materials.
Ladder accident plaintiffs and their legal counsel can employ one or more product liability theories in allegations against manufacturers, including:
- Negligence. Manufacturers are obligated to maintain a standard of care towards consumers that is at least comparable to that exercised by other similarly-qualified companies. To prove negligence, a consumer must establish that the manufacturer failed in some aspect of this standard, and that the failure actually caused the injury in question, among other requirements.
- Breach Of Warranty. Manufacturers often declare warranties that guarantee a certain level of quality or a period of expected use for a product. Even if a product lacks an explicit or “express” warranty, it still may be considered to be under an implied warranty for a particular function. For example, it’s implied that a consumer buying an attic ladder should be able to use the ladder to climb into and out of an attic safely if the ladder was correctly installed.
- Strict Liability. In this theory, which is most commonly applied in cases where manufacturing defects are suspected, the manufacturer is liable for defects even if it exercised considerable effort to prevent the defect. Thus, to prove strict liability, consumers only need to demonstrate that the defect exists.
- Misrepresentation. Since consumers generally rely on manufacturers / retailers for accurate, up-to-date information about their products, the latter can be held liable for misrepresenting products, even if the deception didn’t directly lead to injury. Misrepresentation is in violation of this legal theory whether it was committed through negligence or on purpose.
To help establish various elements of their claims, plaintiffs in ladder injury trials may use a variety of means to relay necessary information to judge and jury. To give some examples, they may point out specific violations of nationally-recognized safety standards, such as those of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA); call in expert witnesses to speak on structural weaknesses of the ladder model in question; or provide accident photos or even videos to show how the injury occurred.
But sometimes, manufacturers will request to end the case in a settlement agreement while a trial is still in progress, or before a trial even starts.
Werner Attic Ladder Class Action Settled Out Of Court
One of the largest ladder recall lawsuits in recent history, a class action regarding an allegedly faulty Werner attic ladder, was resolved with an early settlement.
Clemans v. New Werner was filed in 2013 against Werner Co. Inc. and Lowe’s Inc. as the ladders were marketed exclusively in Lowe’s Home Centers. According to the lawsuit, the “Steel Easy Access Attic Ladder” posed a considerable safety threat to consumers because of a poor design choice—the hinges of the steel ladder were made of low-grade, easily-shattered “pot metal.”
Despite the fact that hundreds of consumers filed complaints of the ladder breaking and even causing injuries after the “Easy Access” ladder debuted in 2003, Werner never recalled it and kept selling the allegedly defective units for years, until deciding to stop manufacturing them in 2008. Because these actions could be seen as concealing potential risks from consumers in order to increase profits, Werner and Lowe’s were accused of unfair business practices and violations of consumer protection acts.
Though the defendants denied every allegation put forth in the class action, they offered a settlement early on instead of participating through the whole trial to await the judge’s verdict.
Insufficient Compensation For Injury Victims
Lloyd Clemans, the plaintiff named on the lawsuit, received a monetary award from the settlement for acting as the class action’s “class representative.” However, the only restitution given to the thousands of other consumers who attached their claims to the class action was a free Werner replacement ladder.
For those who were severely injured by the “Easy Access” ladder, this was clearly inadequate compensation.
Drawbacks Of Class Action For Victims
Why was this underwhelming settlement accepted? The rules of class action were likely a major factor.
How Does Class Action Work?
Class action is a group litigation process that allows numerous individuals with similar legal claims to participate in a case without having to file their own lawsuits.
In order to initiate a class action, one or a few “representative” or “lead” plaintiff(s) file a suit and request class action certification from a judge. Once the suit is certified, individuals who fit certain qualifications described in the lawsuit (for example, having purchased a particular product) may either automatically be included in the class action or may be invited to join by filing a claim form.
Most Claimants Have No Say In Class Action
In attaching your claim to a class action, there’s always a risk of an unsatisfactory outcome, because unless you’re the class representative, you have no influence over how the case will proceed, or whether it will be resolved by settlement or by trial. Because the individual claimants in a class action are judged similar enough to be adequately represented by a single plaintiff, then it’s assumed that the class representative’s decisions will be optimal for all potential claimants.
However, this was likely not the case for Clemans v. Werner. It’s easy to see how a claimant who wasn’t injured by the allegedly defective attic ladders might gladly accept a replacement ladder as a settlement. But consumers who were severely injured obviously deserve much more compensation for pain, suffering, and loss unfairly inflicted upon them by a faulty product.
Claimants Lose Their Rights
This is why ladder accident claimants most likely have a much better chance at winning an appropriate level of compensation through filing individual lawsuits rather than participating in a class action.
It’s important to note that joining a class action usually requires signing over your rights to further legal action regarding your claim. That is, class action participants are prohibited from filing their own individual lawsuits about the same incident.
How An Experienced Attorney Can Help
Much consideration must be exercised in filing a ladder injury claim, especially if you are seeking significant compensation. Ladder manufacturers, generally powerful corporations, have the resources to develop a formidable legal defense against consumers. And as we’ve seen with class action, it’s important to carefully choose the type of lawsuit you plan to file.
Yet filing a lawsuit can be made much easier if you have an experienced lawyer to help you through every step of the process, and contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to be rich to hire one.
The compassionate New York product liability attorneys at Banville Law, highly experienced in litigation against large companies, work for ladder accident victims on a contingency-fee basis. This means that you won’t pay anything until we win a court award or settlement in your favor.
When Should I File My Case?
In order to avoid losing the right to file a claim, it’s best to explore your legal options as soon as possible. The “statute of limitations”—the time window during which you are permitted to file a lawsuit—for personal injury claims in New York is 3 years from the time of the injury. But even if you think your claim is expired, there are certain exceptions to the statute of limitations which may enable you to get an extension.
The best way to find out for sure is to get your case evaluated, which you can do at no cost with Banville Law. Get the answers you need today by scheduling a free case evaluation with our experienced legal team.