There’s been another in a series of customer deaths at Home Depot from falling merchandise, but the death of 6 year old Ivan SanMiguel at a store in Pharr, Texas in May, 2003, raises ongoing concerns about public safety at the world’s largest home improvement warehouse. Home Depot still faces a lawsuit filed by the child’s parents, however. Ivan died from injuries he received when a 100 pound patio door fell on him. According to a police report, a Home Depot worker had removed the wrapped packaging from the doors, which were standing upright on a pallet, in order to show one of the doors to another customer. The employee did not secure the remaining doors on the pallet, and left them unattended, said the report. Police in Pharr, Texas spent several weeks investigating the death for possible negligent homicide. Home Depot could have been charged with criminal negligence for allowing unsafe conditions to exist that resulted in an injury to a shopper. After Ivan’s death, Home Depot apparently issued a new safety rule for all its stores, requiring employees to remove all doors from pallets after the packaging has been opened. Home Depot Bob Nardelli was quoted as saying the young boy’s death in his store ws “unfortunate.”
For past stories on shopper deaths at Home Depot, search this database for “falling merchandise”. No federal or state agency keeps track of any statistics regarding consumer deaths at retail stores. An earlier Home Depot lawsuit revealed that as of 5 years ago, the company was injuring around 2,220 people per year at its stores. According to Professional Safety magazine, customer injuries in big box stores could be in the tens of thousands each year. Adverse publicity in 2001 prompted Home Depot to implement a new “Service Performance Improvement (SPI) initiative to ban inventory stocking and forklift operations during main shopping hours. At an SPI store, wooden pallets are removed from store aisles. But in Pharr, Texas, the system clearly failed — again.