John Baugh v. Cuprum S.A. De C.V., No. 12-2019 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Baugh suffered severe brain injury when the Cuprum ladder he was using to clean his gutters collapsed. In a suit, alleging defective design and negligence, there were no eyewitnesses, and, because of the injury, Baugh could not testify. Three months before trial, Cuprum informed plaintiff’s counsel that it intended to use an exemplar of the ladder at trial, built to the exact specifications of the ladder Baugh had been using. In a pretrial conference, the ladder was marked as an exhibit “for Demonstrative Purposes.” Plaintiff objected. Discovery had closed two years earlier, and the ladder had not been included in expert disclosures. The judge determined that since the ladder was being offered only as a demonstrative exhibit, plaintiff’s objections were irrelevant. Cuprum used the ladder during trial to argue that, contrary to plaintiff’s design defect theory, the ladder would not collapse under a normal load with all legs on the ground. Cuprum’s expert presented testimony and video in which he tested the ladder, including jumping on the ladder as if it were a pogo stick. Over plaintiff’s objection, the judge allowed the jury to inspect the ladder during deliberation. The jury returned a verdict for Cuprum. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that sending the ladder to the jury room was not harmless error.