Space Heater Sold by Large Retail Chain Catches Fire and Results in Death


This case involves a 24-year-old male who died in a fire caused by a space heater. The space heater was purchased at a large national retail chain. The victim’s family sued the manufacturer as they alleged that the space heater caused the fire. Additionally, they’ve named the retail store as a defendant, as they alleged that a more stringent buying process should have been in place to prevent a potentially unsafe product from appearing on the shelves of that retailer.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. What are the buying practices pertaining to product safety and testing at large, national retail chains?
  • 2. Are there any safety precautions taken by large retailers to ensure that the products they inventory and sell are safe for consumers?

Expert Witness Response E-004863

Large retailers have formal buying processes that take into account safety and liability. The retail store has a safety department and when purchasing a product from a multinational corporation with a strong reputation, it is unreasonable to expect any additional safety or compliance testing to be offered by the retailer for the specific product. I am a retail expert with over twenty years in the field. I have occupied high-ranking administrative positions in Fortune 500 companies similar to the retail store named in the case, and have supervised retail budgets in excess of $1 billion.

Expert Witness Response E-004866

I can confidently state that a large retailer has little to no liability for a product that was deemed safe and placed on the store’s shelves. I have extensive experience in safety and quality control as a buyer, a seller, a merchandise manager, and a president of various organizations throughout my career. I have also worked as a wholesale distributor for eleven years, where I spent the vast majority of my time working with national retailers. With this background, I have substantial knowledge on standards of purchase approval for large retail stores as it pertains to safety and quality assurance.

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