Deadly Trip and Fall at Pharmacy Due to Fall Hazard

    retail - pharmacy - couple shoppingA woman and her husband were picking up prescriptions at a pharmacy. They were called over to a different section of the service counter. The woman tripped on stanchions at the pharmacy counter. She fell backward into her husband, and both fell to the ground. The wife suffered serious injuries, and her husband died from his injuries several days later. She asserts claims of negligence, failure to warn and failure to maintain a safe condition due to the negligently arranged stanchions. An expert in ergonomics was sought to opine on the issue.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Was the defendant negligent?
    • 2. Was there an alternative layout that was safer?

    Expert Witness Response

    I am familiar with the applicable codes and safety standards that apply to the subject accident scene. The state building code has very reasonable standards for protecting the general public. The subject accident would not have taken place if a safe commercial customer control system would have been in place consisting of narrow poles and floor insertion holes. Such pedestrian control systems are commonly used to control pharmacy window customer traffic and such systems create safe customer spaces and travel paths.

    The defendant created two pedestrian barriers — the display and the wide base stanchion system. This created a complex zone of danger. The accident scene video is the most important evidence that I have reviewed in this matter to reach my opinions. The stanchion system was designed to preserve patient confidentiality at the pharmacy counter and to separate patients for privacy reasons. The subject accident was caused by the obstacle present at the pharmacy center coupled with the unreasonably dangerous stanchion system. The plaintiff was directed to this unsafe area by the defendant’s staff.

    It would have been more prudent and reasonable to not utilize any stanchion system at all in the area of this accident A system in secure posts was not available, no stanchions should have been utilized.

    It is my opinion that the area and location of the subject accident was unreasonably dangerous for the plaintiff to attempt to conduct business at the pharmacy center, and the defendant was negligent for such condition. I have not determined any error or omission on the part of the plaintiff.

    The expert was a human factors professor and has conducted research on human walking and falling. He has testified in more than 400 cases.

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