Expert Article Library

Ladder Test Falls Down

Case Name: Davidov v. Louisville Ladder Group, L.L.C. (click for more info in uscourts.gov )

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Date: March 10, 2006

Expert: Engineering and Safety. Dr. Irving U. Ojalvo, Sc.D.

Issues: Relevance, expert conclusion conflicted with facts

Summary of case: In a product liability case, plaintiff fell off a ladder manufactured by defendant. The man fell while standing on the third step of the ladder and attempting to fit a drain pipe into a roof gutter.

Role of the expert: The safety and engineering expert theorized that when the man stood up on the third rung, the right rear leg of the ladder rose off the ground, or “racked,” because forces caused the ladder’s frame to twist during climbing. According to the expert, when the man reached for the pipe, his weight shifted causing the ladder’s right rear leg to hit the ground with jolt, resulting in the fall. The expert said that racking was the only reasonable cause for the accident. The demonstration in court showed a slight lifting of the ladder leg, but the racking effect diminished as the demonstrator climbed up.

Expert analysis: The lower court found no internal inconsistency with the expert’s theory, but found the theory contradicted the plaintiff’s own testimony. The plaintiff stated during a deposition that all four legs of the ladder were on the ground when he fell. An attempt to modify that statement by saying he didn’t know if all four legs were on the ground failed.

The appeals court affirmed the exclusion of the expert’s testimony because the expert’s testimony was not supported by the independent facts.

Summary prepared by R. McCall, Student, University of California, Hastings College of Law