Rolling Chairs and Broken Hips—Don’t Put Employee Chairs Out for Customers to Use

I was in the Emergency Room the other day with my daughter. I saw a stool.

What a great idea. Cheap and effective. It’s there because if you’re not tuned into the fact that the stool is on casters it can run away from you (and you can get hurt). The facts are a lot like a case we handled.

We represented an eighty year old woman who went to her bank to do some made a deposit. She waited at a walk up customer service kiosk. She started to get tired. She saw what was essentially a drafting stool. It was tall, didn’t have any arms and had casters. She tried to get up onto the seat. The drafting stool shot out from under her. She fell to the ground and broke her hip.

The Bank was adamant it did nothing wrong. It argued that she should not have used the drafting stool (which was meant for employees only). It also contended that even if it should have kept the stool out of a customer area there was nothing unreasonably dangerous about the stool.

We persuaded the court that the stool was not safe customer because the seat was high (about 32.5” from the floor), the stool didn’t have arms and the casters didn’t have a lock mechanism to keep the stool from rolling away when someone attempts to sit on it.

We also showed that the stool was designed for use on hard surfaces (like the 15 year old industrial carpet used at the bank).

Ultimately we were able to settle the case at mediation for 7.5 times the bank’s initial offer.