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  • Writer's pictureSam Orlando

Gravity Bites: Michael Sipe's $10 Million Falling Out with Summit Treestands

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA — If you've ever considered taking up hunting, one of the first lessons you'd probably get is, "Choose your gear wisely." Michael Sipe of Schuyler, Virginia, thought he had done just that, but his tree stand had other plans. In an unfortunate series of events more suited to a slapstick comedy than real life (if it weren't for the grim injuries), Michael's adventure in the wilds took a painful and perilous turn.

The heart of the matter? A tree stand - not just any tree stand, mind you, but the "Summit 2022 model year Viper Level Pro SD Climbing Treestand." Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? Michael was probably thinking the same when he purchased it in September 2022, envisioning serene days out in nature. But by November, those dreams of peaceful hunts would come crashing down, quite literally.

The story goes like this: on an unsuspecting day at Fulfillment Farms in Albemarle County, as Michael was, you know, casually scaling a tree, the treestand's cables decided they'd had enough. They dislodged from their assemblies. As if taunting the laws of physics and Murphy’s law, the stand’s shooting rail collapsed, causing Michael to flip. Hanging upside down like some macabre version of Batman, he faced a grim situation.

Finding his inner Houdini, Michael managed to wriggle free, though not without taking a hard and injurious fall. Just when you'd think the universe had done enough, days after the incident, Michael received a recall notice for the very stand that had betrayed him. The note, bearing the ominous words "fall hazard to consumers," was a jarring exclamation point to an already surreal event.

Sipe, with a steely resolve and backed by the legal eagles at Phelan Petty, PLC., has launched a lawsuit against the stand manufacturer. The price? A cool $10 million.

The lawsuit hinges on a breach of an implied warranty of merchantability. Layman's terms? The treestand was defective in design. Given its propensity to turn a simple climb into a perilous plummet, one could argue it had one job... and failed miserably.

So, to all the budding hunters out there: When someone advises you to "stand tall," make sure your treestand can do the same.

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