Danger in the Aisles: Cluttered Store Layouts and Display Hooks are a Threat to Children

March 27, 2013

By Emily B. Marks

Retail stores want to make a profit. Without regard for the safety of their customers, retailers will pack as much merchandise into their stores as possible. Clothing racks are often pushed against walls with protruding hooks, forcing patrons to pass between tight spaces to browse the merchandise.

This presents a significant threat to store customers and especially children, when display hooks in the children’s section are placed at a child’s eye level and are obscured by other merchandise or clothing hanging from above. The result is comparable to a bear trap in the forest that is hidden by leaves and brush, just waiting for an unsuspecting passerby.

By far the most common injuries from a display hook are injuries to the eye. Eye injuries place the victim at risk for vision loss and, in worst case scenarios, the hook could pass through the child’s eye socket and cause potentially life-threatening brain damage.

I represent a nine-year-old girl whose eyelid was lacerated by a hidden display hook in the children’s section of a local discount retailer. Hearing her daughter scream, the mother, who was just a few feet away, detached the hook from the wall. Her father then pulled the hook from her eye. Their daughter’s eyelid required two surgeries and, as a result of the incident, she will have Ptosis (eye drooping) for the rest of her life. Though, very fortunately, she did not experience vision loss, she will have to live with this permanent disfigurement forever.

In response to advocating for my client’s rights, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey recently issued a written opinion which should serve to put additional pressure on New Jersey department stores to be more diligent in keeping the children section of their stores safe for kids. (You can read the court opinion here.)

Child safety should be at least as important to the store as selling merchandise.