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The Dangers Lurking in Big Box Warehouse Stores

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.

Someone reached out to us recently, trying to help a friend, and said “My friend was shopping at a big box store when one of the items shelved above her head fell off the shelf and knocked her to the floor, she asked me to call to see what her legal options might be.”

This is a great question since warehouse stores are very common ways of selling merchandise these days.

There was a time not that many years ago, when retail stores were very customer oriented and organized in such a way as to emphasize customer safety.

But today, stores that are basically warehouse facilities have been opened to the public, and they do a high percentage of the consumer retail business in the USA.

The stores that look like warehouses opened to the public pose an unusual risk of danger to customers invited onto the premises to buy whatever the warehouse stores are selling.

Items are usually shelved far above the heads of those walking down the aisle. It’s not unusual to see things shelved 20 to 30 feet in the air in some stores.

Items can range from 20-foot-long rolls of carpet stacked up against the side of a wall, to barbecue grills and lawn furniture displayed above the head of the shopper. You name it and there is probably a store selling it.

These shelving arrangements actually can be safe if the store operator properly monitors the situation.

But what frequently happens is a customer moves an object, say on the opposite side of an aisle, and it bumps something which poses a danger to a person walking down a nearby aisle, causing that item to fall and strike someone.

In a typical warehouse, with just warehouse employees, safety is maintained because warehouse workers wear hardhats and workers watch the backs of co-workers.

But when unsupervised customers get involved, safety goes out the window. Maybe employees safely stacked carpet rolls, but a shopper moves the rolls looking for a particular color. Or, a customer puts a long piece of lumber on a shopping cart, and as they turn a corner, the lumber bumps an endcap display and leads to a chain reaction of falling items.

These warehouse stores have the same duty to make things safe for customers as a standard retail facility. Just because a business chooses to design its store like a warehouse, does not mean that it can shortchange customer safety. Selling items at a discount doesn’t give a business a license to discount safety. In other words, the law doesn’t give a retail store a special pass because its offering something at a discount.  The safety of customers remains paramount.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.