Shopper Suffers Injury In Store

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Sterling Anthony, M.B.A. ::::

Case Synopsis: A shopper in the sports department of a major retailer took from a shelf a step-aerobic platform, placed the platform on the floor, and then stepped on the platform to test it. The platform slid from under her and she fell and sustained a cranial injury. The ensuing litigation against the manufacturer alleged that the product was unreasonably dangerous due to the way it was packaged and due to a failure-to-warn.

Expert Analysis: An evaluation of an exemplar showed that the packaging consisted of a large, printed label that depicted a leotard-clad woman stepping on the platform. The label lay on the top of the platform and the entire platform was encased in clear shrink-wrap. Although the platform has nonskid discs on its bottom, those discs don’t function while the platform is covered in shrink-wrap. That a shopper would attempt an in-store trial of the product is foreseeable, because: the product is designed to bear a person’s weight; the shrink-wrap implies that the product can be tried without damaging its salability; and, there is no warning not to step on the platform while it’s still wrapped. An associated foreseeability is that retail store aisles typically are not carpeted and constitute the type of surface for which the non-skid feature of the platform was designed. If the shrink-wrap were to be used, there should be a warning prohibiting the use of the platform until after the wrap is removed. There are alternative ways to package the platform, such as a carton, which would make in-store trial less likely. In any event, the manufacturer is responsible for the safety of its products.

Results: The case ultimately went to trial and the manufacturer was found liable.

 

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