Dad files suit against Cabela's after son dies in bizarre tree stand accident

SPRINGFIELD, Missouri -- The father of a bow hunter from Clever who died hanging upside down when his boot became caught in a tree stand has filed a lawsuit against Cabela's and the companies that manufactured the tree stand.

Steven Phipps filed the wrongful-death lawsuit after his son Tyler died in the accident on Sept. 26, 2015 while hunting deer from a tree near Ozark.

According to the lawsuit, Tyler Phipps, 30, had just climbed a Big Game "The Bravada Hang-On" tree stand (a metal platform attached to the tree) and was pulling his bow up from the ground when he slipped.

Although he was wearing a safety harness, the lawsuit says Tyler's left foot got caught between the tree stand's footrest and the bottom of the platform as he fell.

The harness prevented Tyler from falling 15 feet to the ground, but the hunter also was unable to pull himself back up or get his left foot loose so he could reach a lower tree branch.

A Christian County Sheriff's Department incident report indicated Tyler's brother had gone looking for him when he didn't return home after sunset. The brother found Tyler, unresponsive, hanging from the safety harness, his foot still trapped in the tree stand. The brother called authorities for help.

The incident report states a member of the Highlandville Fire Department arrived and managed to dislodge Tyler's foot. The firefighter also determined that Tyler was "deceased beyond resuscitation," according to the report.

The lawsuit claims that the manufacturers of the tree stand "knew or should have known" the device was "inherently dangerous and prone to trap a user's foot between the footrest and bottom of the treestand."

The lawsuit also claims the company failed to meet industry standards related to the design and manufacture of hanging tree stands, failed to recall the product and failed to modify the product to prevent it from trapping a user's foot.

Cabela's Retail Mo., LLC, in Clayton, Missouri, was named in the suit because it sold the tree stand to Tyler.

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and seeks "in excess of $25,000" for Tyler's death, along with reimbursement for court costs and expenses. No trial date has yet been set.

The three manufacturers named in the lawsuit are all based in Windom, Minnesota —  Mainstream Holdings, Inc., Premier Outdoor Equipment, LLC doing business as Big Game Treestands, and Global Manufacturing, LLC.

In an email, Brent Quiring, Chief Operations Officer for Big Game Treestands, said "It is our company policy to not comment on ongoing litigation."

"What I can say is that our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of Tyler Phipps," Quiring said. "Additionally, Big Game Treestands has been manufacturing this product and products of similar design for nearly two decades. In that time we have sold hundreds of thousands of units with the same design and never had an injury complaint of this type."

Cabela's did not respond to a request for a comment about the lawsuit. Steven Phipps and the two lawyers representing him also declined to comment about the case.

A Tyler Phipps Memorial Scholarship Foundation was established shortly after his death to help college students interested in agriculture or produce industries. Tyler was senior director of sourcing for the Market Fresh Produce company, which his father founded.


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