Christina Stueve Hodges Nov. 27, 2012, 5:56pm

St. Clair County Associate Judge Vincent Lopinot continued a trial Tuesday in a man’s lawsuit against the maker and seller of a hunting tree stand.

“That’ll be the order, to continue the case," Lopinot told attorneys before jurors were brought into his court. "We’ll find a date in late January or early February."

Opening arguments were planned Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., but attorneys decided they wanted a continuance instead.

The jury was brought into the courtroom, so Lopinot could explain they were relieved of their duties.

“Something has occurred in the case. Something has arisen. It needs to be continued for a specific reason,” Lopinot told the jury. “You are released for the week. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Michael Burns and his wife, Diane, filed a lawsuit March 24, 2011, against Big Dog Treestand and Swansea Rural King Inc.

According to the complaint at issue, Diane Burns bought a ladder stand from a Rural King store in Swansea in October 2010. Michael Burns says he was hunting later that month with the Big Dog-built stand supported by a ratchet strap assembly.

While he was in the ladder, Michael says, the ratchet strap assembly failed, causing the strap to detach and allow him to fall to the ground.

The Burnses accuse Big Dog Treestand and Rural King of negligence for making and selling a defective ladder stand. They are asking for more than $50,000 in damages for medical expenses, loss of income and loss of consortium.

Big Dog Tree Stands denies it caused any injuries, denies negligence or that the product was defectively designed or manufactured. The company also denies the product contained insufficient warnings.

It further denied a defect existed, but stated that Burns knew about the condition, assumed risks, and continued to use the product after his discovery and knowledge that possible harm might result.

At the time of the incident, the tree stand was not in the condition it was in when it left the defendant’s control, the defense claims. The tree stand was changed, altered and modified by others, defendants say.

Michael J. Garavalia represents the plaintiff.

Brian Plegge and Justin Hardin represent Big Dog Treestands.

Michael P. McDonald represents Rural King.

St. Clair County case number 11-L-150.

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