Bradley v. Ameristep, Inc. – Hunter’s Tree Stand Injury Lawsuit to Proceed

Tree stands are popular among avid game hunters looking to expand their field of vision while minimizing their ground scent. hunting

But these stands can be dangerous, especially when they are not properly manufactured or maintained. A recent study by the Ohio State University Medical Center revealed these tree stands – not guns – are the most dangerous aspect of hunting.

Of 130 Level 1 trauma hunting-related injuries the team analyzed over a 10-year period, 50 percent were from falls. Of those, 92 percent were from tree stands. Comparatively, 29 percent of all serious hunting injuries stemmed from gunshot wounds.

Tree stand injuries resulted in fractures 60 percent of the time and closed head injuries were reported in 18 percent of all fall victims. Surgery was required in more than 80 percent of all fall-related injuries, and nearly 10 percent suffered permanent neurological damage.

Whether a hunter has grounds to pursue litigation against the manufacturers of these tree stands following such an injury depends on the facts of the case. If there is evidence the tree stand was defectively designed, poorly manufactured or the manufacturers/distributors failed to warn consumers of a latent danger, there could well be a strong a case.

Recently in a tree stand injury lawsuit out of Tennessee, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit revived a product liability claim of a victim who suffered severe injuries after falling off a tree stand when the ratchet straps snapped. Plaintiff in Bradley v. Ameristep, Inc. sued the maker and distributor of the ratchet straps, alleging strict liability, negligent design and manufacture, strict liability failure to warn, negligent failure to warn, loss of consortium and violations of the state’s consumer protection act.

According to court records, plaintiff purchased two replacement ratchet straps for his tree stand sometime in 2007 or 2008. He used the straps in the fall of 2008, during which time he left the ratchet straps and stand outside, exposed to the elements. He then took them down when hunting season was over and stored them in his garage. That’s where they stayed for three years. Then in 2011, he removed the stand and the straps from the garage. He inspected the straps before he climbed onto the stand.

Just a few minutes later, the straps broke. Plaintiff fell to the ground and sustained serious injury.

To support the claims made in the subsequent lawsuit, plaintiff presented the expert witness testimony of two witnesses. one of those witnesses was slated to testify defendants failed to install an ultraviolet light inhibitor in the straps that would have slowed the rate of degradation caused by the product’s plastic exposure to sunlight.  The other expert was expected to testify that the products were defective upon manufacture because there was no warning of the risks associated with decay of the material they were made of.

Defense moved for suppression of these statements based on the qualifications of the experts, and the court granted it and then granted a motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff appealed, and the federal appellate court reversed. First, the court found both experts were qualified in their fields to give the testimony they offered. Secondly, even if they hadn’t been, the claim could have survived on its own absent expert witness testimony, so long as plaintiff could show an ordinary user would not have expected the straps to fail so catastrophically after leaving them outside for just a few months.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Bradley v. Ameristep, Inc, Aug. 24, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Murray v. Town of Hudson – Personal Injury Lawsuit Against Local Government, Aug. 7, 2015, Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Blog