Falls are a leading cause of death, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nearly half of those fatal falls occur from ladders.
Such was the case for a man whose family later sued the ladder manufacturer for designing a defective product. The case, Coba v. Tricam Indus., Inc., asserted strict liability for the allegedly defective 13-foot ladder.
Jurors at trial sided with the plaintiffs, awarding $1.5 million in their product liability wrongful death case. But the jury’s verdict was technically inconsistent. They found there was not a design defect in the ladder, but they still found the defendant was negligent and that negligence resulted in the decedent’s death. They found the decedent 80 percent liable and the defendant 20 percent liable, thus awarding the estate $350,000.
The defendant did not initially object to the verdict. However, the defense later requested the judge set the verdict aside because jurors could not find negligent design if they did not find the design defect contributed to the fall, and the jury ruled there had been no such defect.
The judge didn’t disagree that the verdict was inconsistent. But the defendant never objected to the verdict at the time it was rendered. This failure meant they waived their right to appeal the verdict.
The defense appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, asking for an exception, arguing that since the inconsistency went to the fundamental nature of the verdict, the defense shouldn’t be required to object to it right away. But the Florida Supreme Court denied this request, finding any party who believes a verdict is contrary to the evidence has to object to it at the time it is announced.
In this case, an expert witness for the estate, a consulting engineer and accident reconstructionist, testified the ladder was defectively designed because it could look as if the ladder was in a locked position, when in fact it was not.
An expert for the defense testified a false lock was impossible on this particular model of ladder and instead posited that the ladder was set up on a slippery surface, making it slide as the decedent climbed it and causing the ladder to give way.
Although the plaintiff initially claimed the warnings on the ladder were defective, that claim was later withdrawn. Jurors were instructed on the standard for finding a design defect by strict liability and negligence on the basis of the design, distribution, and sale of the ladder.
Jurors found the defendant strictly liable, despite there not being a design defect.
The defense appeal was not successful, and the appellate court noted that even though the verdict was conflicting, there was no way to know which part of that verdict reflected jurors’ true intent. Therefore, it did not automatically entitle the defense to a verdict in its favor.
Meanwhile, an appeal by the plaintiff did result in increasing the award by nearly $180,000 for medical expenses, which were not properly calculated in the initial award.
Frequently Asked Questions: Mesothelioma & Asbestos
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a carcinogenic, naturally occurring fibrous mineral. Known for its heat resistance and durability, asbestos has historically been used in insulation, construction materials, automotive parts, and shipbuilding materials.
Why is asbestos dangerous?
Asbestos is made up of small shard-like fibers that can easily become airborne when disturbed. If inhaled or ingested, these fibers can embed within the lining of the lungs, heart, stomach, or testes where they can cause cancer to form years or decades later.
What are asbestos-related diseases?
Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
What causes mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until decades after exposure.
What are the different types of mesothelioma?
Three of the most common types of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma.
What are common mesothelioma symptoms?
Common symptoms of mesothelioma include difficulty breathing and chest pains. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the stomach, may cause abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a preventable form of cancer most commonly caused by asbestos exposure. If you were exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. military or while working in construction, mechanics, or a similar field, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact The Ferraro Law Firm for a free legal consultation.
What is the life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma?
There is no cure for mesothelioma. However, patients can receive treatments for mesothelioma that may extend their initial prognosis with proper treatment. Those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma usually have a life expectancy that is greater than three years, though a large part of this depends on the stage the patient is diagnosed. The earlier the diagnosis, the longer the life expectancy and chance of long-term survival.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should immediately seek long-term medical treatment. After that, you should contact our firm to examine your legal rights. Since 1985, The Ferraro Law Firm has represented individuals with asbestos-related diseases and pursued fair compensation on their behalf. Our firm is one of the top five law firms in the U.S. handling mesothelioma and asbestos cases.
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