And the Defense Wins: Scott Sarason and Jens Ruiz
This article was published by DRI in “The Voice” on May 16, 2018. The article describes the defense verdict for DRI members Scott M. Sarason and Jens C. Ruiz on behalf of Louisville Ladder, Inc. in Morejon vs. Louisville Ladder, Inc., on April 24,2018, in a product liability case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida – Miami Division.
DRI members Scott M. Sarason and Jens C. Ruiz of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell won a defense verdict on behalf of Louisville Ladder, Inc. in Morejon vs. Louisville Ladder, Inc., on April 24, 2018, in a product liability case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida – Miami Division. The claims against Louisville Ladder related to the design of a 16’ extension ladder. In October 2015, Plaintiff Jorge Morejon fell as he was transporting from the roof of a residence he was working on to a 16’ extension ladder manufactured by Louisville Ladder. The subject ladder was gifted to Mr. Morejon six years earlier and was used by him numerous times prior to the date of incident. The fall resulted in Mr. Morejon sustaining fractures to his right hip, lower vertebrae, and ribs. He underwent open reduction internal fixation surgery (screws and pelvic reconstruction plate) to repair his right hip. Mr. Morejon’s doctor opined that he would need a total hip replacement in the future due to his hip injury. Plaintiff’s medical bills amounted to approximately $300,000.
Mr. Morejon filed suit alleging that Louisville Ladder failed to adequately warn Mr. Morejon on the proper use of the 2007 16’ extension ladder. He also alleged that the ladder was defective and unreasonably dangerous in its design because the user needed to move their center of gravity outside of the ladder’s siderails to mount or dismount the ladder at elevation. Plaintiff asserted that the ladder should have a “walk-through” device at the top so that a user could maintain his or her center of gravity between the rails. Plaintiff also asserted the ladder did not comply with the applicable ANSI standards. At the close of Plaintiff’s case, Mr. Morejon asked the jury to return a $3.1 Million award in his favor.
Louisville Ladder denied Mr. Morejon’s allegations. Prior to trial, Louisville Ladder moved for partial summary judgment on Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim, which was granted by the Court. The basis for the summary judgment was that the warnings and instructions were adequate, and Plaintiff read the ladder’s warnings and instructions, but did not rely on them to use the ladder. Louisville Ladder also moved to exclude Plaintiff’s liability expert’s opinions under Daubert, which was granted in part by the Court. In granting Louisville Ladder’s Daubert motion, the Court prohibited Plaintiff’s liability expert from opining as to the adequacy of the ladder’s warning and instructions and opining about an alternative “walk-through” design for the subject ladder.
At trial, Louisville Ladder presented evidence that the subject extension ladder was neither defective nor unreasonably dangerous in design. The ladder complied with all ANSI standards and governmental regulations. The ladder was not and had not been subject to a recall. Mr. Morejon had used the ladder on numerous occasions prior to the incident without issue. There were no other claims or incidents involving the subject ladder similar to Mr. Morejon’s claim. The evidence showed that Plaintiff’s incident was the result of Mr. Morejon’s failure to ensure that the ladder was secure prior to using it or the result of his loss of balance.
The case went to the jury, and the jury returned a complete defense verdict in 18 minutes.
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