Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “Can I wait a few months to pursue a personal injury claim?”
Six years ago, Kurt Stuhlmacher had just begun to put together rafters on the roof a cabin he was building for his parents. He later testified—in a lawsuit he brought against Home Depot and Tricam Industries—that the ladder he was standing on “just, like, fell out—fell this way out from underneath me to the left.”
Stuhlmacher could not see whether the ladder split before or after his fall, because he tried to hold onto the rafter as it gave way beneath him. That distinction—when the ladder split—ended up breaking Stuhlmacher’s case.
His expert—Dr. Thomas Conry, who has a doctorate in mechanical engineering—testified that the ladder’s splitting was “underway” at the time of Stuhlmacher’s fall, but he could not tell whether the ladder split before, at the same time or a fraction-of-a-second after the fall. Dr. Conry concluded that the ladder’s “material had that crack in it and the bracket under the load was prying that rivet through.”
Magistrate Judge Andrew P. Rodovich struck Dr. Conry’s testimony, finding that the doctor’s explanation of the ladder’s failure could not be reconciled with Stuhlmacher’s testimony that the ladder suddenly shot out beneath him to the left. Without Dr. Conry’s testimony, Stuhlmacher’s case lacked crucial evidence that Home Depot and Tricam—Tricam was the ladder’s manufacturer—caused Stuhlmacher’s injuries.
Those injuries, according to court documents, continue to plague Stuhlmacher. As a result of the fall, Stuhlmacher injured his shoulder, but “the more significant injury… was to his penis,” wrote Judge Ann Williams of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. When he fell, Stuhlmacher struck his groin on the right front rail of the ladder, causing a condition known as Peyronie’s disease, “which causes extreme pain during erection and prevents [Stuhlmacher] from having sexual intercourse.”
Stuhlmacher appealed Judge Rodovich’s decision to the Seventh Circuit, and that Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of the case, finding that Stuhlmacher’s and Dr. Conry’s testimony could be reconciled.
The accident happened quickly—in a matter of seconds—the appeals court observed, and Stuhlmacher gave an account of what he experienced in those seconds. Dr. Conry “then reconstructed what happened and gave his opinion on how an alleged defect could have caused the accident,” Judge Williams wrote.
It was not the job of Judge Rodovich to determine whether Dr. Conry’s opinion was correct. Instead, in considering the motion by Home Depot and Tricam for judgment as a matter of law, Rodovich was to serve merely as “gatekeeper to trier of fact.”
That means, in other words, the judge’s role was to determine whether there were any facts in dispute between Stuhlmacher and Home Depot and Tricam. Juries find facts, so it would be up to a jury to decide whether the ladder was defective, and whether a defect in the ladder caused Stuhlmacher’s injury.
Now that the Seventh Circuit has reversed Judge Rodovich’s judgment, Stuhlmacher will have the opportunity to present his case to a jury.
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author
Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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