This case takes place in New York and involves an elderly male who attempted to reach merchandise on a high shelf at a large grocery retailer. As the man attempted to remove merchandise from the shelf, a failure in one of the shelf’s components caused the entire shelving unit to tip over. The man stumbled and fell as he attempted to escape from the falling shelf, causing him to hit his head on a concrete wall. As a result of this fall, the man fractured his skull and expired shortly thereafter. It is alleged that the retailer failed to adhere to the appropriate standards for displaying merchandise, as well as their obligations towards securing retail shelving and ensuring patron safety.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
1. Please describe your familiarity with the appropriate standards of safety for retail shelving / racks where sale merchandise is displayed?
2. Have you ever been the target of a negligence claim for failing to adequate secure racks / shelving in a retail store setting - resulting in a collapse or accident like the one described above?
3. Do you have any publications/lecturing experience in the retail safety field?
Expert Witness Response E-004539
As a store planner for more than 30 years, I have been directly involved in the layout, acquisition and installation of many major retail shelving/rack projects. My experience involves retailers such as Walmart, CVS, Pathmart, Stop and Shop, Target, and Sears. I understand the structural, functional, and merchandising aspects of every major US manufacturer's display systems. With two degrees in architecture and vast engineering experience, I can without question evaluate the condition of the tracks at the accident scene and provide a compelling opinion with strong backup documentation. I have served as an expert witness in many retail safety cases. These involved products falling off of displays, improperly loaded displays, customer accessibility to displays, as well as where components of a rack system failed. In all my years of practice, I have never had a negligence claim issued against my clients nor myself. I have been published in trade magazines on several occasions pertaining to design and safety issues. I have lectured to all the major trade organizations (National Associates of Store Fixture Manufacturers, National Retailers Federated Association, Institute of Store Planners, and more) on the subject of retail design, display, and customer service. Obviously, a situation like this should never occur, and failures of this nature are usually related to negligence during the shelf's assembly.