On Dec. 2, 2018, Brian Schall was deer hunting in Calhoun County, Alabama, using an API Marksman climbing tree stand made by Global Manufacturing Company. Many hunters use tree stands, like the API Marksman, as a portable perch that allows them to climb a tree and hunt from an elevated position.
The tree stand’s main platform and cable assembly hug the tree as the climber gradually makes their way up. Mr. Schall was about 20 feet up the tree when the cable suddenly detached from the platform. The failure caused Mr. Schall to fall to the ground and suffer fatal injuries.
Prior to Mr. Schall’s tragic death, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced on its website that the Big Game GCL300 (The Marksman) tree stand was under a safety recall. The agency warned that the cable assembly on the stand could release, posing a fall hazard to the user.
The Minnesota-based Global Manufacturing Company had made about 5,300 units before the recall. Unfortunately, once a dangerously defective product is made and sold, consumers often don’t get the warning until it is too late.
In its recall announcement, the CPSC urged consumers to immediately stop using the Marksman tree stands and return them to Global Manufacturing for free replacement cables. The agency said that at the time of the recall, the manufacturer was aware of one incident in which the tree stand’s cable assembly suddenly released, causing an individual to suffer a broken vertebra, fractured rib, and sprained shoulder.
Hunting has many inherent dangers, especially when climbing trees and using deer stands. That means there is little to no room for errors. Tree stand manufacturers and other hunting product manufacturers that fail to ensure their products are safe and reliable put consumers at risk of serious injury and death.
According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, falls from elevated platforms and tree stands were the leading cause of death and injury during the 2018-2019 hunting season. In that period, the agency reported three fatal and 12 nonfatal tree stand incidents.
Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham found that hunters ages 15–34 are at higher risk for falls. Other studies across the country have found that hunters ages 40–50 years old are also vulnerable to tree stand falls. According to the UAB study, hunters 65 and older, such as Mr. Scahll, who was 66 when his deadly tree stand accident occurred, had the lowest risk of injury and death among hunters.
Researchers warn that hunters should be trained to take certain proactive safety measures to decrease their risk of serious injury and death in the event of equipment failure. For example, in 2011, nearly half the falls among hunters were caused when the strap securing the tree stand to the tree broke.
Beasley Allen filed a product liability lawsuit on behalf of Brian Schall’s estate against Global Manufacturing Company in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. The complaint alleged causes of action under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine (AEMLD), negligence, and wantonness. The parties in Mr. Schall’s case reached a confidential settlement at the close of discovery.
Mr. Schall’s lawsuit is one of several product liability cases involving serious injury and death that Beasley Allen’s Mobile office is handling.
If you are an attorney and have questions about a case or would like to discuss a claim with Beasley Allen’s product liability attorneys, contact our firm’s Personal Injury & Product’s Liability Section at 800-898-2034 or by email at [email protected]. If you have any questions about our Mobile office or a specific case, please contact Frank Woodson at 800-898-2034 or email at [email protected].
Consumer Products Safety Commission, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, University of Alabama Birmingham, Grandview Outdoors