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Shapiro & Appleton

VA Personal Injury Lawyers: Claims Rise Against Retailers Over Falling Products

As Virginia personal injury lawyers we have witnessed the widespread development of big box stores such as Lowes, Home Depot, Sams Club and Price Club. Expansive floor space with merchandise and large boxes stacked high above the customers is the standard for these retail giants.  Unfortunately, there is an increasing number of injuries to customers caused by merchandise/products falling on them in these large stores resulting in all types of personal injuries ranging from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries.

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High stacking of large boxes represents an accepted business decision for the store. This storage practice saves the retailers millions of dollars by cutting down warehouse and related costs. High stacking boxes properly done is not a problem; however, it becomes a problem when the store fails to secure the merchandise and product to prevent it from falling suddenly and causing personal injury.

The potential causes for falling merchandise are numerous: Improper product stacking may cause toppling when the merchandise becomes unbalanced Equipment striking shelves may cause products above to become unstable An employee or customer may remove or dislodge merchandise from the bottom first, causing the higher products to fall and injure a customer.

It is the nature of the big box retail stores that the retailer anticipates and invites the customers to move throughout the store and retrieve products on their own. Despite this environment, the stores typically attempt to place the blame on the customer, i.e., the customer carelessly removed or handled merchandise/products at a lower level causing the higher product to fall, or they claim the customer climbed a ladder or stool attempting to retrieve merchandise causing the higher product to fall.

Unfortunately, the big box stores are not required to file accident reports with any regulatory agency because OSHA safety standards and worker's compensation statutes protect workers but do not protect the customers. Consequently, there are not any reliable statistics of how many or how severely customers have been injured by falling merchandise.

There is no government agency responsible for protecting customers from falling merchandise and equipment. There have been studies performed to determine how to strengthen tall racks which resulted in suggestions that the bases of the racks be bolted to the floor with four, not one, bolt and doubling metal columns supporting heavier loads. There have also been suggestions that large boxes, equipment and products should be secured together with steel bands, shrink wrap and other fasteners.

Lawsuits arising from falling merchandise can take several years and lead to large expenses for investigations and retaining expert witnesses with different specialties. As this type of litigation involves complex issues of negligence, reasonable care, foreseeability and damages, it is recommended that anyone contemplating such a claim contact a law firm experienced and familiar with these types of personal injury claims.
Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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