NeoCon Death Lawsuit Filed Against Designers and Facility

12/12/2018 By Tyler Davidson, Kadie Yale

The death of an attendee at NeoCon 2018 has resulted in a lawsuit filed by the deceased’s estate against the designer of the an allegedly faulty exhibit floor demonstration swing; the exhibiting company, David Edward; and Chicago’s theMart (previously called the Merchandise Mart.)

The June 12, 2018, accidental death of Jacqueline Albertine, 57, an employee of Corporate Design Choice, occurred when Albertine took part in the demonstration of a plank swing manufactured by Hollander Design Group in the exhibit floor showroom of The David Edward Company.

Albertine fell from the swing, hitting her head on the floor. She was brought to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead from blunt force head trauma at 4:23 pm the next day.

Lawsuit Details

The lawsuit alleges that the swing presented defects and unreasonably dangerous conditions, including tip hazards and stability imbalances, at the time it left the design and manufacturing facilities, as well as the fact that adequate safety measures weren’t taken by both David Edward and theMart.

Each defendant in the filing is being sued for an amount in excess of $50,000. The full dollar amount won’t be determined until the discovery phase, as exceeding a threshold of $50,000 is the initial requirement to send the case to the Law Division of the Cook County court.

Allegations of Lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges that The David Edward Company and/or Hollander Design Group failed to design the subject plank swing:

  • From being free of tip hazards and instability points
  • So as to have proper handles to allow users to avoid falling backward
  • So as to render a design that would ensure that the seat cushion and/or seat base:
    • Would remain level at all times while being utilized
    • To allow users to properly stabilize on the subject plank swing
    • Would refrain from tilting forward and/or backward when utilized
  • So as to render a design that would restrict bounce and/or unnecessary movement when being used
  • From being free of tip hazards and instability points

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Additionally, the lawsuit alleges negligence in the design and manufacture of the subject plank swing.

The lawsuit also alleges that theMart:

  • Failed to exercise reasonable care in the owning, operating, managing, and controlling of its showrooms and installed furniture;
  • Nor obtain adequate protection for attendees by providing a mat or requiring David Edward to provide a mat
  • Failed to observe the proper installation of the swing or remove it when theMart “knew or should have known that the subject plank swing presented a danger”
  • Didn’t perform proper evaluation of the potential need for emergency medical care and treatment during the tradeshow
  • Didn’t create, prepare, distribute and implement a plan for providing emergency medical care and treatment, nor employ emergency medical care personnel or a designated person responsible for responding the need for emergency care on site
  • When emergency personnel arrived, theMart failed to have means for the emergency responders to obtain unobstructed access for the treatment of persons

The Importance of Duty of Care

While no one wants to think about incidents like this, manufacturers should consider every aspect when designing their showroom spaces or other locales where non-employees may be present, even in buildings in which leased space doesn’t require additional safety measures.

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Most notable in the allegations is the phrase “knew or should have known.” Legal action can be filed for any event in which a reasonable person could assume a problem may occur, placing additional importance on planning for every conceivable circumstance.

Emergency Planning: Safety Considerations for Design Professionals

Before tradeshows such as NeoCon, many aspects must be taken into consideration. When designing a showroom considering the layout of the space or preparing to be an attendee at a tradeshow, take a moment to consider the following:

  • What dangers are present? Can something fall from above or pose a tripping hazard?
  • Is there a first aid kit available nearby?
  • In the event of fire, injury or other life-threatening event in which the building would need to be exited, where are the closest emergency exits? Is the path to the emergency exits well lit, marked and unobstructed?
  • Do those you’re with or employees know where the meeting place is after exiting the building?
  • For showrooms, are there people designated to call for help, perform CPR and/or provide visitors with a plan of action should such need arise?
  • For showrooms, is there a means of calling for help at all times? If your showroom is in a zone that blocks cell reception, is an inline phone easily available?

As the design industry prepares for the 2019 tradeshow season, emergency planning and response should be considered to ensure that attendees will be safe and taken care of in the event something does happen.

 TheMart Properties could not be reached for comment.

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