This case takes place in California and involves a man who suffered extensive, permanent, and debilitating injuries while shopping in a supermarket. At the time of the accident, the man was recovering from ankle surgery and required the use of crutches in order to ambulate. On the day of the incident in question, there was a display table with free samples set up in a narrow area between the registers and aisles at the front of the store. The table was covered with a long, flowing table cloth that draped onto the floor and extended several inches from the table. As the man was attempting to make his way past the table one of his crutches became tangled in the loose fabric, causing him to fall and strike his head on the floor. As a result of the fall, the man suffered a serious skull fracture, as well as permanent brain damage.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Do you have extensive experience in the supermarket industry?
- 2. Are there standards that need to be met or steps that need to be followed when setting up display tables?
Expert Witness Response E-023913
The bulk of my experience is with general merchandising stores that include grocery products in their assortment, this includes big box retail locations with grocery sections, dedicated grocery stores, and several other retail environments. There are standards that need to be satisfied when setting up display tables, and proper display techniques are generally part of the the store set up instructions. This would take into account the supplies and materials used, spacing, height and weight bearing, and so on. I have designed and approved displays and visual merchandising for hundreds of stores, as well as dozens of events and product promotions. I served as the COO and Director of Operations for multi-billion dollar retail chains. Customer safety should always be a retailer’s number one concern when designing and maintaining their store environment. Temporary displays such as the one described here can pose a unique safety risk due to their temporary nature – less thought might be put into the design and implementation of a temporary display, and therefore less thought given to safety. In this case, allowing the tablecloth to drape onto the floor and into the path of customers clearly created a dangerous situation.
Expert Witness Response E-034952
I have a decade of experience in the grocery business, where I have been able to apply my degree in Occupational Health and Safety. There are basic merchandising and safety standards that need to be followed to ensure shoppers can safely reach the products, and a few ADA standards that can help to protect shoppers with disabilities. I constantly train new team members in different areas of ADA compliance. Safety is one of my favorite topics to teach and I have created multiple safety protocols to protect team members and customers in my store. Having anything on the floor that might affect a customer’s traction when walking is a significant safety issue that should be addressed immediately.