Man Paralyzed after Ladder Collapse
Aurelio Garcia, an air-conditioning mechanic, is paralyzed from the chest down after an extension ladder gave out underneath him. He fell 16 feet while trimming a couple of tree limbs while using the extension ladder on the company truck that he used for work. When he started back down, the rung locks disengaged and the extension slid. Garcia held on for a moment, his lawyer said:
"He rode it down until the upper part cleared the branch and the ladder fell forward. He twisted to one side to avoid falling on top of it. He landed on his feet, and suffered a compressed fracture of a lumbar vertebra."
At the hospital, Garcia was submitted to surgery after he was told that it carried a risk of paralysis—which is exactly what happened.
Garcia still has the use of his arms, allowing him to drive a van that has hand controls and a lift for his wheelchair. But he will never walk or climb a ladder again. Garcia will, however, be able to fulfill his ambition of running his own air-conditioning and refrigeration business due to an $11,397,600 court judgment that he won.
He hasn't received the money yet, however, and cannot expect to have it anytime soon. Garcia's lawyer, Luis Stabinski, explained that the ladder manufacturer had yet to appeal the decision, but was sure to do so.
Expert witnesses who testified for Garcia said that he had lost around $1.3 million in future earnings and could expect special care costs of $3.5 million over the course of his life.
Garcia and his wife Alina "planned to have children, but they won't now," Stabinski said. "Before the accident they bought a new house, but then they couldn't afford it. They had to sell and move back to their old house, which they had given to Alina's grandparents."
The Garcias sued the Louisville Ladder division of the Emerson Electric Co., charging product liability for:
- Negligent design
- Negligent manufacture and safety testing
- Failure to warn users of potential danger
Although Garcia's paralysis did not set in until after surgery, the ladder maker did not try to blame doctors. The defense argued that Garcia was partly to blame due to misuse of the ladder. The jury agreed Garcia was partly negligent, but still gave Louisville Ladder 90% of the blame. The total judgment of $12,644,000 was therefore reduced by 10% to $11,397,600.