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Falling Merchandise

Falling Merchandise Injury Claims Lawyer in Hamilton, Serving all of Ontario

Despite retail warehouse businesses’ knowledge that high stacking of merchandise creates a dangerous condition with risk of serious injury to customers, and despite mounting injuries from falling merchandise, many stores have done little to address this problem.  Retail warehouse businesses often refuse to take responsibility or acknowledge that high stacking of merchandise is dangerous.   In fact, in some recent American cases, Home Depot and Wal-Mart have gone on record blaming customers for injuries sustained by falling merchandise.  These businesses claimed people should have know the risks associated with shopping in a warehouse-style retail store.

If you’ve been hurt by falling merchandise from store shelves we can help. Call us today for your free consultation.

If you have suffered life-changing injuries due to falling merchandise, call us today at 905-333-8888 to learn your rights. Our consultations are free and we never ask for money upfront.

The Law behind Falling Merchandise

The legal issues pertaining to a falling merchandise case fall within general principles of what we call Occupier Liability law in Ontario.  Occupier Liability law embraces the liability of owners or occupiers of establishments for injuries sustained by visitors. The law recognizes that merchants have a duty to customers to exercise reasonable care to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition, and to give warnings of unsafe conditions insofar as that condition is known or should have been known by the exercise of reasonable care and reasonable inspection.

What is “reasonable care” and what are duties owed by stores to keep their customers reasonably safe?

It has been well-established in Ontario for decades that a merchants owe a duty to its customers to keep its businesses, the aisles, passages, and other public places in a reasonably safe condition and to use ordinary care to avoid accidents or injuries to its customers.  Merchants who know of, or by reasonable care, could discover, a condition upon their property that they should foresee exposes their customers to an unreasonable risk or danger, and who have no basis for believing that their customers will discover the condition or realize the risk involved, must exercise ordinary care either to make the condition reasonably safe for the customer’s use or to give warning adequate to enable customers to avoid harm.  In fact, Judges in various past cases have clearly explained the duties owed by retail warehouse business to customers are as follows:

  1. Merchants have a duty to prevent merchandise from falling by stocking it safely (Mannina v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 99 CA 1102, 2000 WL 232609; Wooley v. Great Atlantic & Pac. Tea Co. (Pa. Super. 1972);
  2. Merchants who stacks merchandise on high shelves, or high stacking, must recognize that so doing creates an unreasonable risk for customers (Dougherty v. Great Atlantic & Pac. Tea Co. (Pa. Super. 1972); Lapeyrouse v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 725 So. 2d 61 (La. App. Ct. 1998);
  3. Merchants have a duty to anticipate customer’s conduct (Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Leake, 147 P.2d 439)
  4. Merchant’s failure to limit the height of merchandise stacked on high shelf without use of barrier can constitute negligence (Nguyen v. Toys’R’Us—Texas, Inc., No. 1999-18667 (Tex., Harris County, 334th Jud. Dist. Ct., Nov. 15, 2000));
  5. Merchant owes a duty to warn of danger of falling merchandise (Pullia v. Builders Square, 638 N.E. 2d 688 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994)).
  6. Self-service merchandisers have a duty to display merchandise so that customers may procure it safely without assistance, and provide more readily available assistance, or to warn of the danger (Pullia v. Builders Square, 638 N.E. 2d 688 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994)).
  7. Merchants have a duty to guard against and prevent falling merchandise (Morais v. Schwegmann Bros. Giant Supermarket, 290 So. 2d 357 (La. App. Ct. 1974)).

Likely Causes of Merchandise Falling Incidents

Often falling merchandise incidents occur without any notice, warning, or witnesses.  Victims are often faced with the task of reconstructing the incident and providing an explanation of how the merchandise fell.  In our experience, the following are likely causes of a falling merchandise incidents:

  1. Unstable stacking of merchandise;
  2. Push-throughs;
  3. Merchandise too large for shelf;
  4. Package breakdown;
  5. Heavy boxes stored on top of light boxes;
  6. Stacking of irregular shaped boxes on top of each other;
  7. Merchandise that tends to roll;
  8. Merchandise that is placed on a shelf with an unstable base; and

How are merchandise falling claims investigated by our Hamilton personal injury lawyers?

There are numerous sources available from the retail warehouse business, both at the corporate and local store level, to assist injured victims in proving notice in a falling merchandise case.  The subject of falling merchandise is often well-documented by retail warehouse businesses for their own business purposes, and the making any such documents, records, videos or business records are often widely available if requested during the litigation process.

The vast amount of information about falling merchandise that each retail warehouse business has and collects clearly indicates that these businesses know about the nature, extent, and seriousness of the issue.

Our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers have requested the following documentation in past falling merchandise cases:

  1. Falling merchandise reports: Retail warehouse businesses separately track and record falling merchandise incidents resulting in injuries to customers and employees in their stores. An incident report is prepared in the ordinary course of business at the store level at or about the time of the incident.
  2. Safety team/committee records: In our experience, each local store has a safety team/committee, also known as a risk control team, that meets at least once a month. Records of each meeting are generally kept and signed by a store manager.  Falling merchandise, as well as particular store incidents, are regular topics of the safety committee.  The records of the safety team may include relevant information about the particular incident that is the subject of the lawsuit.
  3. Store Risk Reviews: There may be monthly and quarterly risk reviews at the local store. The reviews are documented.  Falling merchandise and stable stacking are regular topics for review.
  4. Store manual and/or risk resource manuals: These manuals are utilized by management at the local store and generally have sections dealing with stocking of merchandise and falling merchandise.
  5. Employee handbooks: Each employee is usually provided with a handbook, which contains sections dealing with stocking of merchandise and falling merchandise.
  6. Training videos; satellite broadcasts: Local stores are usually provided with numerous training videos from the corporate office that contain discussions about falling merchandise. The videos often contain statements concerning the problem and hazards of falling merchandise. The videos can often be found online.
  7. Photographs of high stacking: There are photographs, photographs, and more photographs of high stacking at the store level

Have you been hurt by falling merchandise? Get the compensation you deserve.

Always remember – store owners have a duty under the Occupiers’ Liability Act to ensure the reasonable safety of their customers.  If a store or warehouse fails to abide by the duty of care imposed under the Act to keep their premises safe, they can be held liable for your injuries.  Contact  Hamitlon Personal Injury Lawyer Matt Lalande to discuss your claim today.  All our consultations are free and we never ask for money upfront. Call us today at 905-333-8888 or fill in a contact form today.



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