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An unwelcome trend

By: / Trend Watch

If you pay attention to only one seating trend, it should be increased risk/product liability from chairs collapsing.

“Chair collapse is very much a concern and affects all party rental companies nationwide,” says Kevin Lococo, rental market sales manager for Palmer Snyder. “We think that product liability from chair collapsing is likely to gain prominence in the event rental industry in the next 10 years.”

Lococo identifies several factors. For one thing, Americans are getting bigger; a 300-pound person isn’t unusual anymore, he says. Secondly, the industry lacks a third-party, load-bearing standard for polypropylene (polyfold) folding chairs. Consequently, there’s a lot of variance in load-bearing capabilities.

In the U.S., product liability typically lands on the manufacturer. But if that manufacturer lacks
commercial liability insurance (for example, some foreign chair manufacturers have none), the lawsuit then falls on the distributor and the rental company, Lococo says.

“These suits can range from $500,000 to $1 million, and we know of at least one $1 million settlement,” he says. “For even a well-insured rental company, a large settlement can be a catastrophe as it threatens their insurability.”

Lococo suggests that rental companies request the testing data, which should be conducted by a credible third-party lab. Testing should include both static and dynamic load bearing.

“Rental owners should also insist that their chair manufacturer provide a certificate of insurance that evidences coverage with a $1 million liability limit from a U.S. insurance company,” he says.

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