This case involves a woman who fell off a ladder and was injured. The woman was cleaning her gutters and set the ladder up in an A-Frame configuration on level ground. The woman was wearing flimsy plastic sandals while completing this task. As she attempted to proceed down the ladder, her foot got caught between the step and a stabilizer bar perpendicularly behind the step. As a result, she fell backward and severely injured herself. The woman broke her toe and subsequently developed an infection that required amputation of several toes on her right foot. An expert in ladder design was sought to opine on whether the ladder in question had an inherent design defect.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please describe your design and/or failure analysis experience, particularly with ladders.
- 2. In your experience, could the ladder have been designed in a way to not have the choke point created by the stabilizer bar?
- 3. Are you familiar with other instances where people were injured because their foot got stuck?
Expert Witness Response E-068993
I have worked on numerous ladder cases, and I have tested ladders in my laboratory for other cases. The cross braces on this multi-purpose ladder mainly serve as guides for the moving section. When the inner section is telescoped out by at least one rung, and locked into position, that rear brace is exposed behind the step. That brace should be below the height of the step to eliminate the ability to easily insert a foot the wrong way. In my opinion, there is no reason for it to be high enough to present this hazard, and the ladder will pass the same ANSI A14.2 code if the cross braces were placed out of line and below the steps. Perhaps this is an older ladder and there has been a design change. I would buy exemplar ladders and demo the accident and the solution. I own a version of this type of ladder and it does not have this issue.