Falling merchandise causes severe brain damage at major big-box retailer

paint storeThis matter involves a premises liability case against a major big-box retailer. On the day in question, a customer was shopping for a blender for his newly renovated kitchen. He entered the display aisle and saw a particular model of nutribullet blender that interested him. The blender can was stacked among other clear containers of spare nutribullet parts on a high shelf above his head. He attempted to retrieve the blender box and an industrial container of spare nutribullet blades came falling down onto his head, causing severe brain damage. The plaintiff worked as an accountant for many years and was unable to return to work as a result of his injuries.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. In the large retailer setting, which safety rules and regulations are in place in order to ensure that items and merchandise are properly stored?
  • 2. Do you have any publications on the subject of retail store display safety?

Expert Witness Response E-007005

There are actually a number of very specific OSHA regulations that should be discussed, and that could make a difference in this case. Any employer, including a big-box retailer is legally required to provide a safe workplace for all workers covered by OSHA. Though it was a customer who was hurt in this case, but it’s entirely possible that the unsteady stack of merchandise could have also constituted a hazard for a worker. If that’s the case, that could bring OSHA into the discussion.

“In addition to OSHA requirements, there are numerous other state and federal regulations requiring businesses who operate for the benefit of the public to provide a healthy and safe environment for its shoppers. There have been numerous instances of incidents just like this, in which someone has been injured by falling merchandise, so it’s unlikely that the big-box store is unaware of the possibility of such a hazard.

This expert has published many technical articles related to various human factors topics. He is a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and a number of other professional organizations. He is certified by the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE), being among the first 50 human factors professionals in the world to hold a BCPE certificate. His human factors career now spans more than 25 years.

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