Stuhlmacher v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., No. 14-2018 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Stuhlmacher’s parents purchased a ladder from Home Depot so that their son, Kurt, a millwright technician, could work on the roof of a cabin he was building for them in Indiana. Kurt was using the ladder for the first time when it fell, causing him to fall. Kurt sued Home Depot and the ladder’s manufacturer, Tricam. The Stuhlmachers’ expert, Dr. Conry, testified that the ladder was defective, likely causing Kurt to sense instability and involuntarily shift his weight. The magistrate judge struck Dr. Conry’s testimony, finding that his explanation of how the accident occurred did not “square” with Kurt’s testimony that the ladder shot out to his left. Because the testimony was stricken, the Stuhlmachers did not have any evidence showing causation, so the judge entered judgment as a matter of law for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit reversed. An expert’s testimony qualifies as relevant under Rule 702 so long as it assists the jury in determining any fact at issue in the case. Experts are allowed to posit alternate models to explain their conclusions.