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Heath v. Channel Lumber Co.

Decided: March 2, 1953.

LESTER J. HEATH, DOING BUSINESS UNDER THE ASSUMED NAME OF ALBANY LADDER COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHANNEL LUMBER COMPANY, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Eastwood, Bigelow, and Jayne. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jayne, J.A.D.

Jayne

[25 NJSuper Page 7] A brief account of the principal events will adequately reveal the nature of this litigation. The plaintiff, Lester J. Heath, trading in Albany, New York, under the name of Albany Ladder Company, had for several years prior to 1947 engaged in the purchase, sale, rental, and repair of ladders. In 1947 he entered the business of manufacturing wooden extension ladders to the extent of cutting, fashioning, and collocating the requisite component parts. On February 11, 1947 he purchased from the defendant, Channel Lumber Company of Newark, 17,634 feet of lumber described in the invoice as "Ladder Stock & B. & B. 6/4 K.D. Hemlock." The species of wood ordered by the plaintiff was hemlock.

From the ladder stock so purchased the plaintiff manufactured five extension ladders having a reach of 40 feet and sold them to C.R. Joyce, a roofing contractor of Delmar, New York. On May 27, 1948, one George Gustin, a roofer engaged by Joyce, while ascending one of the ladders, was caused to fall to the ground by reason of the fracture of its upright railings. Gustin sustained serious bodily injuries in the mishap, to recover compensatory damages for which he instituted an action in the Supreme Court of New York against Heath. Channel Lumber Company was given notice of the institution of the action. The insurer of Heath settled the action by the payment of $57,500 damages. The reasonableness of the amount paid in the settlement is acknowledged by the defendant in the present action.

It is of present importance to note the particulars in which Gustin alleged in his complaint that Heath was negligent:

"(a) -- Manufacturing and selling a ladder in a dangerous and defective condition;

(b) -- Manufacturing said ladder in violation of good and approved practice recognized in the ladder manufacturing industry;

(c) -- Manufacturing said ladder out of improper and inadequate materials, that were not strong enough to support the weight likely to be placed upon it;

(d) -- Failing to properly inspect the said ladder before selling the same;

(e) -- In undertaking the manufacture of ladders when the defendant was incompetent and improperly trained in the manufacture of said ladders and in employing agents, servants and employees who were incompetent, inexperienced and negligent in the manufacture of said ladders;

(f) -- Being careless, reckless and negligent in the selection of proper and adequate lumber and other materials that went into the manufacture of said ladder;

(g) -- Using improper grades of materials that were defective and which defects could have been reasonably ascertained and determined by reasonable and proper inspection;

(h) -- Failing to properly test said ladder at its various stages of manufacturing and at the time that its manufacture was completed so as to determine whether or not said ladder was proper, adequate and sufficient for ...


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