The tragic death of a 38 year old Clinton Township Man was reported in local papers today. The shopper was with his wife at the Menards store in Chesterfield Township in the morning when a pallet of ceramic tiles fell off of a storage shelf unit. They fell about fifteen feet and struck him in the head. He suffered fatal injuries due to the trauma.

Incidents involving “big box” stores, like Menard’s, unfortunately happen much too often. Large retailers who store products overhead in the shopping space often fail to properly and safely stack goods, boxes, and pallets on shelves. This poses a serious risk of injury, and death, to any person shopping in a store. This is especially troubling when considering the number of small children shopping with their parents.

Despite the frequency of these injuries, it appears that little has been done to prevent falling merchandise injuries in these stores. Just look up next time you are in a Menards, Home Depot, or other store. You’ll see heavy merchandise, boxes, and pallets piled up high above you without anything to prevent them from falling off the shelf.

The industry is aware of these dangers but has done little to make the stores safer for shoppers. My law firm won a trial a few years back involving a woman who was struck in the head by a heavy shelf that fell in a clothing store. She suffered a traumatic brain injury. The jury awarded her a substantial verdict and we hoped that this would send a message to retailers to make their stores safer or they will have to compensate victims. Unfortunately, the Michigan retailers did not get the message.

The Mendard’s incident raises several questions that need to be answered. These include:

  • When were those pallets placed on the shelf and by whom?
  • What measures were taken to prevent shoppers from being injured if the fell down?
  • What policies and procedures did Menards have in place to prevent this from happening?
  • Did Menards inspect the store to make sure it was safe before letting customers enter that day?
  • What does Menards plan to do to prevent this from happening to another innocent person?

The police are investigating this matter and some of these questions will be answered. Hopefully the industry will wake up and implement safety measures to protect customers and shoppers. Unfortunately, this will not help the wife and family of the man who died at Menard’s. The store needs to pay compensation to the family for their loss and maybe a hit in the pocket book will be what it takes for the retailer to make its stores safe.