“Attention Shoppers, This Store Contains Hidden Dangers”

Joye Law Firm Settles Claim Against Big Box Retailer

Every year, thousands of shoppers are injured, and sometimes killed, due to falling merchandise and other negligent acts of corporations that own and operate shopping centers and stores. With the increasing size and number of warehouse-style retail stores (also known as “big-box retailers,” “super-stores,” and “mega-stores”) and the corporate owners taking minimal action to prevent injuries, the number of shoppers injured each year due to corporate negligence will continue to rise.

The precise number of shoppers injured each year from falling merchandise is difficult to calculate because corporations typically assert that such information is proprietary and confidential. Also, there are no state or federal regulations requiring corporations to report store injury data. Nonetheless, based on investigative reports by various news sources, including ABC News and Inside Edition, jury verdicts and settlements from across the country, and the American Society of Safety Engineers’ warning to customers to be aware of hidden dangers while shopping, there is no doubt that serious injuries caused by falling merchandise occur at an alarming rate.

Unfortunately, one local family became part of an unwanted statistic during a shopping visit to a big-box retailer. David Graves was three years old when he was seriously injured while shopping with his mother (the client’s name has been changed for confidentiality purposes). David was standing by his mother when he was struck by several large boxes that fell from a display rack. The boxes struck David with such force that he sustained a severe fracture to his leg requiring an extended hospital stay, traction, surgery, and immobilization for 10 weeks in a half body cast.

“This was not a situation where a child was misbehaving or was not being watched by his mom or dad,” explained Joye Law Firm attorney Chris McCool. “Instead, the child was standing by his mother when the display shelf gave way,” added McCool. A pre-suit investigation revealed that the boxes fell because the store owner overstocked a poorly designed shelving unit. Therefore, the Joy Law Firm began pursuing a claim against the corporation that owned the store and stocked the shelf and the corporation that manufactured the shelving unit.

Upon the completion of the Joye Law Firm’s initial investigation regarding the cause of the falling merchandise, the corporate defendants requested that a pre-suit mediation be held in an effort to settle the claim. Based on the Joye Law Firm’s past experience in handling falling merchandise premises liability cases in general, the firm agreed to participate in the voluntary mediation.

In preparation for the mediation, the Joye Law Firm obtained various necessary materials – medical records, medical bills, x-rays, surgical reports, physical impairment evaluations, corporate policy manuals, industry standards, scene photographs, and photographs and videos depicting the hardship the injury caused David and his family – to further strengthen the claim. “At the mediation, we knew the cause of the falling merchandise, the law regarding this type of case, and the science applicable to falling objects to illustrate why these types of cases result in such serious injuries,” said McCool. Scientific evidence is important in various types of cases, especially in falling merchandise cases. The lessons learned in high school physics establish that as an object falls, it gains momentum and leads to a force of impact of 1,200 pounds or more when a 10 pound object falls 10 feet.

The Joye Law Firm’s extensive pre-suit investigation, preparation, and knowledge enabled the Joye Law Firm to settle the claim at mediation. At the respective requests of the corporate defendants, the terms of the large settlement are confidential.

The incident involving young David Graves illustrates the dangers associated with corporations not paying enough attention to store safety. From a lack of trained personnel to insufficient or non-existent safety policy and procedures, shoppers at big-box retail stores are exposed to an especially high risk of severe injury due to the size of the items on display and the high levels at which the items are displayed. When these items fall, broken limbs, spinal injuries, and traumatic brain injuries are a likely result. It is the aim of the Joye Law Firm that hard work in representing client like David will send the message to corporations that safety must come before profit.