Product liability claims enable plaintiffs to pursue damages against the manufacturer or supplier of poorly designed goods.
A husband and wife chose this course of action last year after they allegedly suffered physical and psychological injuries when the man fell from a ladder.
The claim was ultimately unsuccessful for a number of reasons. Let's examine the case in more detail to see why.
The plaintiffs were entertaining a friend at their home when the husband decided to perform a repair on the roof.
They unpacked the new ladder, checked the locking mechanism was firmly in place and leant it against the house. The husband ascended the ladder, completed the repair and was climbing down when the locking mechanism allegedly malfunctioned, causing the ladder to collapse.
According to the evidence of the plaintiffs and their guest, the man fell to the ground and fractured his right ankle. He also suffered a right fracture to his femur and extensive bruising to his right side.
His wife also claimed damages for psychological injuries she alleged resulted from witnessing the accident, including an adjustment disorder with depressed mood and anxiety attacks.
Experts who examined the ladder following the accident said the hauling rope that helped the locking mechanism function was too short.
This defect meant the lock remained partly disengaged when the ladder was extended, leading to the product collapsing under the plaintiff's weight. However, the couple had to prove the faults were present during the production process and the manufacturer failed to spot them.
The business claimed it had a number of procedures in place to prevent such problems from arising. For example, the ropes for the locking mechanism are cut in batches of 30 to 50 and no other ladders appear to have been made with ropes that were too short.
The firm also had a quality assurance program that involved several workers checking whether or not ladders were fit for purpose before distribution.
Justice Monika Schmidt said the plaintiffs had not proven the faults in the ladder were caused by negligence on the behalf of the manufacturer.
She described the suggestion that the rope on the plaintiffs' ladder was cut too short as improbable.
"So is the possibility that this defect was not identified, either during assembly, or quality control. That would have involved human error on the part of the person who cut the rope, the person who assembled the locking mechanism and the person who inspected the ladder."
The decision highlights the complex issues at the heart of product liability cases, which is why claimants should have a specialist personal injury lawyer on their side to ensure they have the best chance of success.
Contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for a no-win, no-fee service you can trust.