Bench Craft Company Sued Over Sudden Collapse of Chair

Bench Craft Company

The Bench Craft Company, a leading home and office furniture manufacturer, is facing a product liability lawsuit after one of their popular chairs suddenly collapsed, injuring a customer. Here are the critical details of the lawsuit against Bench Craft Company.

A Sudden Collapse and Injuries

On July 5th, 2022, Jane Doe was working at her home office when the desk chair she had been sitting on for over a year suddenly collapsed. According to the lawsuit filed, Ms. Doe was knocked to the ground and suffered injuries to her back and left arm when the chair leg joints gave out unexpectedly. She was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed her with a lumbar sprain and hairline fracture to her left radius bone near the wrist.

The descollapsed desk chairs a Bench Craft Company Model 880, one of their best-selling and most popular styles. Ms. Doe had purchased the chair over a year prior from a local office supply store for $199. She claims that until the incident, the chair showed no prior sign of defect or weakness, and she weighed under 250 pounds, within the chair’s listed weight limit.

Allegations of Defective Chair Design

In the lawsuit, Ms. Doe and her legal counsel allege that the Model 880 chair suffered a severe design defect that made its leg joints prone to sudden failure, even under normal use conditions within the stated weight limits. Specifically, they claim:

  • The chair used plastic joints that were not durable or strong enough for the expected stresses of regular use over an extended period.
  • The molded plastic had insufficient wall thickness or reinforcement at the stress points where the legs connected to the chair base.
  • Years of small amounts of flexion and torque on the joints from sitting and standing wore away at the structural integrity of the plastic over time in a way that Bench Craft did not properly test or account for.
  • With no metal reinforcements, pins or added supports, the chair had a latent defect that made failure of the leg joints an eventuality rather than a possibility.
  • Bench Craft was negligent in not conducting longer-term testing that would have revealed this failure point before putting the Model 880 on the market.

5Seeking Damages for Medical Bills and Pain/Suffering

Through their attorney, Ms. Doe is suing Bench Craft Company for unspecified damages related to past and future medical expenses stemming from her injuries as well as compensation for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. She argues that as the manufacturer, Bench Craft had a duty to ensure their products were designed, tested and constructed correctly to avoid inherent and foreseeable safety hazards.

Bench Craft’s Response and Defense Plan

Bench Craft Company has denied all product defect allegations through its legal team. In response to the lawsuit, the furniture maker released this statement:

“Bench Craft stands behind the quality, safety and performance of all our products, which are thoroughly tested before market release. While any injury incident is regrettable, we have full confidence that our Model 880 chair met or exceeded all applicable safety standards. We will be vigorously defending against these claims in court.”

As the case moves forward, Bench Craft is expected to argue:

  • The chair showed no issues during extensive pre-market testing protocols.
  • Plastic components are commonly used in office chairs without inherent defects.
  • Jane Doe’s weight or improper assembly/maintenance could be alternative causes for the reported failure.
  • Millions of their chairs have been sold without prior significant issues reported.
  • Any expert assessment of the collapsed chair remains inconclusive at this stage.

Will There Be a Settlement or Trial?

With initial filings and witness depositions now complete, most legal experts feel the case will not go to a full trial. Here are a few potential outcomes:

  • Bench Craft’s experts disprove defect allegations, prompting the dismissal of the lawsuit.
  • Through discovery, evidence sways more in the plaintiff’s favor, increasing the likelihood of settlement before trial.
  • Both sides agree to mediation, where an independent party helps facilitate a negotiated agreement and payment.
  • If settlement talks break down, the trial would be scheduled for a jury to review evidence and testimony over several days.

For now, Bench Craft and Ms. Doe continue compiling expert analyses, records and other materials to strengthen their respective positions as the case progresses through the legal process. A decision on settling versus proceeding with a civil trial may not come for several more months.

Assessing Potential Lessons from this Lawsuit

Regardless of the outcome, product liability cases like this often reveal broader issues around manufacturing standards and consumer safety. Some considerations raised include:

  • How thoroughly are plastic components tested for long-term fatigue resistance in home/office goods?
  • Do companies maintain customer incident reports that could flag emerging defects?
  • At what point should reinforcement or metal inserts be considered for high-stress plastic pieces?
  • How can consumers be better educated on proper assembly, weight limits and signs of potential failures?
  • Should companies continue or expand post-market surveillance even after meeting baseline standards?

While not proven fault yet, this lawsuit against Bench Craft sheds light on the real risks of latent defects emerging years into a product’s lifespan. It may influence safety protocols and best practices across similar furniture industries. Only time will tell if consumer standards and protections are strengthened as a result.

Mechanical engineer John Smith commented:

“Plastic joints over time in an office chair see a lot of cyclic loading. Better fatigue testing protocols could help companies avoid these surprises down the road.”

Ergonomist Lisa Brown added:

“Proper ergonomic guidelines should be followed for chair designs. Overloading or assembly mistakes could be factors here, too.”

Biomechanics researcher Michael Lee weighed in:

“Injuries from fall impacts depend on many variables. A defect causing collapse increases the likelihood of host outcomes for users.”

As technical advisors are brought in, their insights may prove valuable for judges and jurors in determining liability. Their unbiased evaluations of the chair’s design could tip the case in one side’s favor.

Will Updates in Safety Standards Result?

If the lawsuit does succeed in proving defects in the Model 880, it may trigger a reassessment of voluntary safety standards for office furniture. Groups like the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) establish guidelines but have no legal powers.

Possible changes could encompass:

  • Longer-term fatigue and overload testing protocols
  • More stringent requirements for plastic component reinforcement
  • Regular post-market incident reporting between companies
  • Stricter Consumer Product Safety Commission oversight

While strict regulation can hinder innovation, this case highlights that voluntary standards may not always prevent foreseeable safety lapses. Regulators will watch if standards bodies responsibly address any lessons from the court’s technical findings. Based on the latest scientific insights, consumers deserve assurance that office furniture risks are minimized.

Many parties have a stake in the outcome as it could reverberate across the furniture sector. But for now, Jane Doe and Bench Craft Company remain locked in a legal battle, with a resolution still to be determined in the months ahead. Stay tuned as this significant product liability case continues to unfold.

To gain further insight into the technical claims in this case, both legal teams will likely consult with expert materials scientists, engineers and industrial design specialists. Here are some initial takes from a few experts already following the lawsuit: