Although hunting tree stands have become very popular in recent years due to the significant advantage that they offer hunters, the stands also present a serious safety hazard when they are not designed properly.
The most common injuries caused by defective hunting tree stands are sustained as a result of the tree stand suddenly coming loose from a tree, causing broken bones and spinal injuries when the unsuspecting hunter falls. Due to clear regulations by various consumer protection agencies, hunters are legally entitled to seek appropriate damages when they are inadvertently injured due to faulty equipment that does not belong on the market. Over the course of the last decade, personal injury attorneys representing many injured hunters have filed successful lawsuits in which the manufacturers of defective hunting tree stands have been required to provide financial compensation for damages inflected by their products.
One of the best known lawsuits involving faulty hunting tree stands occurred in 2008 against Ardisam Inc., an equipment manufacturer located in Cumberland, Wisconsin. According to the lawsuit, the company was well aware of a serious safety flaw with one of their hunting tree stand models since the early spring of 2000, but failed to issue a safety recall until May 2004.This was a direct violation of the Consumer Product Safety Act, which requires all hunting equipment manufacturers to immediately notify the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) upon the discovery of any product that poses a significant safety risk to the public. Once they finally notified the CPSC of the problem, Ardisam issued a recall of nearly 80,000 of the hunting tree stands.
In this particular case, the lawsuit was filed by the Department of Justice's Office of Consumer Litigation rather than by injured hunters. Although Ardisam denied all allegations of wrong doing, the prosecution successfully proved that the corporation had received a long list of complaints by injured hunters who discovered that the hunting tree stand detached from trees during use. In early 2008, Ardisam finally decided in favor of a settlement with the Department of Justice that required the company to pay $420,000 in civil penalties to the government.
Another landmark lawsuit against hunting tree stand manufacturers in early 2009 was filed against TSR Inc. by the widow of a hunter who had lost his life using a faulty hunting tree stand called the Ol' Man tree stand. Timothy Simonton was hunting alone in the woods when his tree stand detached from the tree. Simonton was wearing the recommended safety harness at the time, but he did not manage to survive the fall. Instead, he was found some time later hanging lifeless from the tree still attached to his body harness. Following complaints to the CPSC, approximately 9,000 Ol' Man tree stands were subsequently recalled during the year of 2007.
What is particularly unusual in this case is that no one representing TSR Inc., a Florida based hunting equipment manufacturer, or any of the other businesses listed in the lawsuit appeared at the trial to defend themselves in court. The attorney representing the hunter's widow filed the lawsuit requesting $100 million dollars based on an approximation of the income that Simonton would have been likely to earn over the course of his life, as well as other damages. However, after deliberating for only one hour, the jury reached a decision on its own volition to reward the widow with $157 million in damages due to the death caused by the faulty hunting tree stand.
More recently, a lawsuit was filed in late 2009 by an attorney representing a hunter who suffered a broken back when he fell from a tree due to a faulty hunting tree stand that he had purchased at Gander Mountain. According to his attorney, the hunter was injured the first and only time that he used the hunting tree stand in question when the hunting equipment collapsed as soon as it was mounted. As a result, the hunter plummeted 14 feet to the forest floor and fractured two of the vertebrae in his back, and suffered a broken pelvis and other injuries.In this case, it was the lawsuit itself that prompted the CPSC to require an immediate recall of the hunting tree stand in question, and some 13,000 hunting tree stands sold by Gander Mountain Company were recalled across the country.
Hunting tree stand lawsuits provide a measure to ensure that the manufacturers of potentially hazardous hunting equipment take every possible contingency into consideration to make the safest possible hunting tree stands available to responsible hunters. While a hunter's safety is ultimately his or her responsibility, the regulations provided by the Consumer Product Safety Act provide guidance that hunting equipment manufacturers are required to notify the CPSC whenever they discover that a particular model of hunting tree stand may be defective, so a safety recall can be issued before a hunter is seriously injured.
In cases where hunting equipment companies fail to provide their consumers with proper protection, hunting tree stand lawsuits give injured hunters a chance to recover the financial damages that they have incurred through medical expenses and lost wages, as well as pain and suffering.