Engineering Expert Witness Comments on Load-Bearing Capacity of Chair


mechanical engineer expert witnessThis case involves an injury to a male which occurred while the male attempted to reach some boxes. Two weeks prior to the incident in question, the plaintiff purchased a chair at a large retailer. The chair featured wire legs and a plastic frame. There were no weight requirements for the chair, listed, but the defense agreed that, based on their findings, the chair had been assembled correctly. While attempting to move some shoe boxes from the top of his oversized dresser (most of the shoe boxes did not weigh more than ten pounds), he used the chair to stand on while reaching some of the boxes in the back. While standing on the chair, two of the legs snapped, and the plaintiff fell, which caused him to break his leg and sustain a concussion. He brought suit against the manufacturer for a defective design.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Is it reasonable for a purchaser of a chair to use the chair to stand on?

Expert Witness Response

In most cases, chairs are (obviously) designed for individuals to sit on, but are usually designed to be able to support a reasonable amount of weight for an individual to stand on. If a chair, for some specific reason, cannot support an individual standing on it, a warning should be included on the box, in the instructions, and with a removable sticker on the chair, itself. While not specifically designed for the purpose, individuals standing on chairs are foreseeable, and the manufacturers should be aware of this. As such, any error likely existed due to a lack of a warning, a design defect, or a manufacturing defect. Given the probable lack of any significant wear and tear (because of the chair’s relative newness), a defect becomes more likely. Still, in order to fully understand the existence of a defect, the surface that the chair was on, the exact materials used, and the designs need to be analyzed. Overall, however, given the circumstances presented, it appears that there was a defect with the chair.

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