Massive Retail Accident Caused by Negligent Display Construction

Retail Safety Expert WitnessThis case involves a number of shoppers at a big box retails store who were seriously injured when a large display of camping equipment collapsed. At the time of the incident in question, several shoppers were located around a large display of heavy camping equipment, which had been stacked on top of itself for display purpose. The merchandise was stacked so high that it was well above the top of the store’s aisles. At some point, a female customer accidentally backed into and tripped on the corner of one of the boxes at the bottom of the display, causing it to collapse. The collapse caused adjacent shelving to collapse, leading to a number of serious injuries for multiple customers.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Are you familiar with The National Safety Council Accident Prevention Manual?
  • 2. Do you have knowledge of the sections regarding sales floor maintenance and display issues?

Expert Witness Response E-053567

The critical issue appears to be the aisleway width, rather than how boxes were stacked. Research shows that people will not continue rearward for an extended distance without looking. It would appear to be unlikely that aisleway widths within a retail establishment would be sufficiently narrow that an individual would be likely to come into contact with product on the other side no matter how it was stacked. Further, tripping is a function of the progression of the foot being arrested during the course of the swing arc and the center of mass of the body moving outside of the base of support. It would be highly unlikely that such would occur during a rearward movement. The accident is unlikely to have occurred as described.

Expert Witness Response E-004539

I am familiar with the NSCAP manual, however the likelihood that any regulation was violated will be a result of  local building and fire codes as well as American Disability Act. Both of which are clear about platform and display issues as well as clear fire egress aisle widths and conditions.  My experience and qualifications pertaining to store maintenance and display design and manufacturing are extensive. My successes can be documented in similar cases that I was involved with where aisle widths and product extending into the aisle were the cause of the accident. In addition, I am very familiar with the retailers internal rationale for allowing conditions as stated in your background to the case allowed to exist without correction to avoid liability. I have design displays that were shipped to all Walmart Stores and over a period of ten years had 20,000 examples of my display design residing in their store.

Expert Bio

This expert has been in the retail and retail planning industry for over 40 years. He received his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Technology from the New York Institute of Technology prior to earning a Bachelor of Architecture from City University of New York – City College. Awarded the honor of Fellow of the Institute of Store Planners, his articles on store design have been featured in Display Design Ideas and New York Magazine and he has been an invited speaker at trade shows sponsored by the likes of the National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers, the National Retailers Federated Association, and the Store Planning and Equipment Council. He has held executive and management positions as a store planner with multiple retail companies, and he is currently the Principal of his own retail store planning consulting firm that specializes in store layout, design, and safety with a client base that includes Macy’s, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Stop and Shop, and many more.


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