Plaintiff and another employee were standing on a small scaffold while installing CertainTeed shingles on a house when the scaffolding gave way causing the plaintiff and the other worker to fall and injure themselves. Plaintiff alleges that the ladder upon which the scaffolding was secured broke, causing the fall. Employees of defendant home construction company built the scaffolding, and the ladder belonged to the company or its employees.
The defendant employees were either acting in their own capacity or as employees and/or agents and/or subcontractors to defendant construction company. Plaintiff alleges they were negligent in either furnishing the ladder or negligent in the building and/or design of the scaffolding.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1.) What caused the incident?
- 2.) What was the extent of the ladder damage?
Expert Witness Response
The scaffolding set-up was improper and unsafe. The scaffolding set-up consisted of two aluminum extension ladders against the rear of the house, with lumber boards resting on ladder jacks. A third ladder, an unsecured step ladder, was placed on top of the planks to reach higher portions of the home. At times more than two people, and possibly as many as four, used the scaffold, according to testimony. No fall protection of any kind was used.
At least one of the ladders was damaged and altered by its owner before the accident. It had been run over with a work truck, which caused a portion of the ladder to bend. The owner sawed off the broken part. He continued to use the remaining portion of the ladder.
My inspection showed portions of the flange on both the base and fly sections of the ladder were bent, the top portion of the fly section bowed to the left, the left shoe and bracket of the base section bent inward, and the top portions of both the base and fly sections were missing.
Based on all available information, the primary cause of the accident was the improper, under-sized, jerry-rigged set up. Secondary causes of the accident were overloading and lack of fall protection.
The expert is a registered professional engineer and the defendant’s product safety director. He has more than 20 years of experience investigating and reconstructing hundreds of ladder use accidents.