In-Wall Cafeteria Tables Causing Deadly Injuries in Schools

The risk of being struck by a falling folding table is not an everyday risk family’s think about when they send their children off to after-school programs or summer camps.  But the grim fact is that seemingly harmless objects can seriously injure, or even kill.  

In the aftermath of several deadly accidents occurring at schools and church halls throughout the country, families have sought to hold school districts and after-school programs liable for the injuries or deaths caused by in-wall tables, especially top-heavy tables held in wall panels by outdated or improper storage components. 

Hazardous History

These large tables, commonly found in school cafeterias and multipurpose rooms, stand around 6 feet tall and can weigh up to 350 pounds. Some have wheels that make them easier to maneuver or they may be placed in-wall to save space. 

In 1989, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) reported 6 deaths and 14 injuries of children who moved or played with wheeled fold-up tables, causing the tables to tip over on top of them.  In response, the CPSC issued a warning about the tip-over hazards of fold-up tables and stated that “six manufacturers of these tables . . . voluntarily joined with the Commission in a program to place permanent, uniform, warning labels on all tables (50 inches or higher when folded) in elementary, junior, and senior high schools.”  Still, many children continue to be injured by these fold-up tables across the country.  The Redwoods Group, a North Carolina-based risk consultant agency, routinely warns the public about the potential risks of portable, fold-up tables used in schools.

However, the CPSC has not issued any warning about in-wall cafeteria tables and benches that have recently been the culprits of numerous child injuries and fatalities.

Recent Cases 

There have been several accidents due to in-wall tables falling out of wall pockets.  Common causes for accidents are improper or outdated storage components or mechanical failures. 

In 2015, a 7-year-old boy in New Milford, Mass., was killed by an in-wall cafeteria table falling—an eerily similar accident killed a 4-year-old boy in Malden, Mass. just 5 years prior.  These in-wall tables have also caused life-altering injuries to children. In Hamilton, NJ, a 6-year-old who was playing on the floor at his school suffered from a crushed femur and fractured skull when a folding table fell out of a wall panel.  Most recently, a 3-year-old girl was killed when a table fell on her at a preschool program in January 2017.  The mother is claiming that the church where the incident happened, the Archdiocese which oversees the church, and the operator of the preschool program, are responsible for the child’s death.

Several manufacturing companies, school districts, and after-school program sponsors have been forced to pay upwards of $10 million in settlements and jury verdicts due to these horrific injuries.  One notable manufacturer includes Chicago-based Midwest Folding Products, which paid $10.5 million in recovery. 

Warnings

Parents and caretakers should take note of whether or not their children have a safe play area far away from the dangers of these in-wall table panels.  Families who have been hurt by falling in-wall tables may be able to seek compensation through a personal injury claim. 

Contact an Albany personal injury attorney at Dreyer Boyajian LLP for immediate legal help.

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