There are more than falling prices at some of our discount stores today. This website has documented the frequent cases of “falling merchandise” injuries and deaths at stores like Home Depot, which still cause injuries to shoppers despite their switch to evening stocking, instead of the old fork lift obstacle course they used to present to customers. A jury in Durham, North Carolina has hung a guilty verdict on Home Depot in what the Durham Herald Sun newspaper claims is “the longest civil trial” in the city’s history. The family of a young boy seriously brain injured by a falling steel door at Home Depot walked away with only $500,000 in compensation for a case that took them nearly 4 years of aggravation to pursue. The parents of the injured boy, Will Baker, who is now 12, were upset with the small amount of the award, since their lawyer had asked for 40 times that amount — $20 million. Baker will need medical treatment for the rest of his life, and the family will continue to suffer the anguish of having their child permanently disabled. The trial lasted for two months. The Herald Sun interviewed the jurors, who indicated they considered the $20 million figure, but “they didn’t think Baker was injured badly enough.” “They didn’t do a good job of proving permanent brain damage,” one juror said. The jury found that Home Depot was negligent, because the retailer failed to secure the door from falling, did not inspect it, and permitted it to be dangerous to customers for more than three years before it fell. The issue that held the jury up for days was not Home Depot’s negligence, but how much to award the family. The boy’s attorney told the Herald Sun the parents were “very disappointed.” “Their boy has been very seriously and permanently injured. But this was a very well-defended case, as you would expect from Home Depot. It’s been a very difficult trial.” The lawfirm paid more than $200,000 for expert witnesses. Even after the verdict, Home Depot continued to deny responsibility. A company lawyer told reporters, “No accident is an acceptable one. We certainly sympathize with the injuries Will suffered. But we felt all along that Home Depot was not negligent or responsible for those injuries.”
When do these stores ever admit they are negligent? It takes a jury to find them guilty. Home Depot lost the case, but won in the end. The pathetically small award to the Baker family will hardly leave any money for the injured boy. As we said in our earlier story on this case, parents who insist on shopping at stores like Home Depot, which use shelving as their storage warehouse over your head, should leave their children behind when they go shopping. Better yet, find a local, safer store to shop at. Leave the danger in the aisles by shopping elsewhere.