Retail Safety Evaluation of a Watermelon Display

Basic Fact Pattern
  • Trip and fall event in a big box store, involving a watermelon display
  • Multi-million dollar claim following a similar case resulting in a previous $7.5MM verdict against the Defendant one year earlier.
  • Exact fall mechanism was unclear and video surveillance did not capture a good angle of the incident.
  • Same Plaintiff’s attorney as the previous case, but with a different safety expert.
Investigative Actions Taken
  • Deposition testimony and other available documentation was reviewed.
  • Opposing retail safety and biomechanical expert reports were reviewed.
  • Cross examination questions were developed for unqualified opposing safety expert.
  • Research study cited by opposing safety expert was fully reviewed, as well as other research by the same individual, which was not addressed by the opposing expert.
  • Safety policies and procedures were compared to national consensus-based voluntary safety standards.
  • The use of the watermelon display at the time of the incident was compared to the manufacturer’s recommendations for the use of the display, the grocery industry recommendations for the use of the display, and the merchandising use of the same display throughout 15 different retail chains.
  • A key piece of evidence in the previous case was also re-reviewed.
Determinations Made
  • The key piece of evidence in the previous case was falsely presented by the previous expert.
  • The watermelon display, as utilized at the time of the incident, was consistent with industry standards, safety standards, and merchandising in service at competing retail chains.
  • The research cited by the opposing expert did not present the conclusions alleged by the opposing expert report.
  • The alternative merchandising suggested by the opposing expert for this case would have defeated several of the safety features already built into the display, rendering the display less safe, rather than more safe.
Involved Experts: 
  • Benjamin Irwin, P.E., DFE
  • Travis Wells, P.E.

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