Falling Merchandise Accidents

Although you may not realize it, every time you walk into a “big box” store and enter one of the aisles stacked with merchandise as much as 15-20 feet in the air or more, you have entered a potentially hazardous zone. Why is that? Because statistically, thousands of customers and delivery personnel who enter stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Lowe’s on an annual basis are injured, and in some cases killed, from falling merchandise. These big box stores are stocked with merchandise from the floor to very high ceilings, and often in a very careless manner. And the merchandise that is on these shelves at substantial heights can cause serious injury or death because of the weight of the merchandise—wooden doors, windows, lumber, appliances, plumbing supplies, lamps and countless other products.

Several years ago, our office represented a client who suffered complete hearing loss in one ear and a severe concussion when, while answering a call on her cell phone from her husband at a big box store, she was struck by a falling door which had not been properly secured on the shelf above her. Initially, the claims people for the store contacted her, offered a meager settlement, and stated that even if she hired an attorney, that would not result in a better offer. However, after commencing litigation on her behalf, conducting extensive “discovery” (a demand for internal documents and depositions of numerous store employees) the store changed its position and we were able to secure a substantial settlement on her behalf. During the course of litigation, we realized that in fact, these stores often have a safety program which is provided to employees in DVD (then videotape) form. Many of the requirements of safety as outlined in that video (which the store’s attorneys fought vigorously not to exchange with us) were not followed in our client’s accident.

Customers of large merchandise stores are often injured due to the following:

Unsecured Merchandise. Frequently, the store owners do not have the correct devices to prevent merchandise from falling off of the shelves, such as metal cables, security bars, fencing, safety ties, and extenders on the highest shelves.

Insufficient Employee Supervision and Training. In our case, the store employees we took sworn depositions of before trial were not properly trained in how to stack merchandise, and would place larger merchandise on top of smaller items or haphazardly stack merchandise without regard to whether it was safe, due to time considerations.

Stacking of Products Too High. If you go into any big box store, it is not an uncommon occurrence to observe a customer attempting to reach merchandise which has been stacked 10 to 15 feet in the air by grabbing a movable stair, ladder, or climbing up shelves to attempt to reach the product they want. Naturally, this can lead to dislodging or loosening nearby products, which now are a hazard to an unsuspecting customer who walks in the aisle shortly thereafter.

Improper Warnings. Often, store owners, despite knowledge of the dangers, fail to warn customers when merchandise is being placed on the shelves or removed, do not block off aisles when stocking is taking place, and do not use the proper forklifts and other equipment to safely stock shelves.

Failure to Inspect . Shelves need to be checked frequently to determine if merchandise has shifted or moved, to avoid the possibility of creating a hazard to customers, delivery people or employees of the store.

If you or a loved one are injured due to being struck by falling merchandise at a big box store, it is essential that your retain lawyers who have the requisite experience, determination, dedication and background to fight the stores, their insurance companies and defense counsel to protect your legal rights. At the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel, with offices conveniently located in White Plains, the Bronx and Peekskill, we will demand that these companies compensate you for pain and suffering, medical and hospital expenses, past and future, lost earnings and earning potential, and loss of the ability to enjoy life, and fight to secure that compensation from the inception of the case through resolution by way of settlement, mediation, arbitration or trial.

Call at (914) 428-7386 or contact us online for your free consultation today to discuss your case in detail with an experienced litigator.

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