Expertly Speaking

Fitness Facility

Fitness Facility Operations: A Forensic Perspective

Laura Miele-Pascoe, Ph.D, Sports, Fitness and Recreation Consultant

The fitness industry has exploded in popularity as a core component of healthy living in recent years. In response, many fitness facilities have grown in size and complexity. When these facilities are not run with appropriate attention to safety they can cause or contribute to injury of their patrons. Common oversights in these organizations include failure to properly place equipment; hire qualified and competent fitness staff members; train and educate clients; choose proper flooring, and post signage that is safe and informative for its members, among others. The responsibility of fitness facility owners to operate with a proper protocol, trained and educated staff members, and a thorough maintenance plan is made easier by the variety of resources available to facility managers/staff members through the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association (IHRSA). Learn more about fitness facility operations through a forensic perspective in the article below by Laura Miele-Pascoe and Denise Giordano Autret.

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Where the Lamp-Post Falls

Laurence R. Penn, Senior Forensic Animation/Video Specialist ::::


An old residential lamp post, weakened by a recent storm, fell unexpectedly and damaged two vehicles parked below. The owner of one of the vehicles claimed to have sustained injuries from the falling lamp post while entering her vehicle. The actual lamp-head was the part identified as the culprit for the injury.

However, the vehicles’ orientation and proximity to the post made the story difficult to comprehend. Three scene photos were camera-matched using photogrammetry, and as part of the process, the approximate position of the fallen post and lamp-head were calculated. The results were imported into 3D software and the arc of the falling lamp post was established.

When viewed from multiple angles, the reconstructed scene showed that the plaintiff was likely not in a position to be injured by the lamp-head, as described in the testimony.

Laurence R. Penn, Senior Forensic Animation/Video Specialist at DJS Associates, can be reached via email at or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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Captain Video and the 3 Car Scenario

James R. Schmidt, Jr., BSME, Sr. Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::

By now, you’ve likely seen our speed from video evaluations. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a still camera, a moving camera, a dash cam video, daytime, or nighttime. If we can identify sufficient points of reference, we can evaluate speed of a given vehicle from video.

In this example, we’re evaluating speed of three vehicles from one clip: 1) the vehicle equipped with the dash cam (vehicle 1); 2) the vehicle a distance ahead of vehicle 1 (vehicle 2); 3) a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction (vehicle 3). We are able to assess additional vehicles, if that were necessary.

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Tractor Trailer Fire Damage

Tractor-Trailer Sustains Severe Fire Damage

R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::

A commercial tractor-trailer sustained severe fire damage during an overnight stay in a parking area of a heavily traveled interstate. No one was in the truck at the time of the fire; however, security surveillance cameras recorded the event and the video became an important element of the ensuing investigation.

A preliminary engineering review included a study of the truck’s recent maintenance and repair records, as well as an interview with the truck owner. This identified two areas on the truck that warranted a detailed visual examination. It also identified potentially relevant parties for the subsequent, joint-expert examination. Specifically, the truck owner produced service records reflecting battery and starter repairs performed one month before the loss. He also reported that after those repairs, he had trouble starting the truck, along with other electrical problems. He returned to the shop that performed the repairs; however, those complaints went unremedied.

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Swimming Pool Drownings

Many Fitness Clubs Ill Prepared to Deal with Swimming Pool Drownings

Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert ::::

Membership Fitness Clubs have become extremely popular in America during the last couple of decades, offering all types of workouts and fitness activities during all hours of the day. But a recent case highlights the many and varied problems Fitness Clubs face when it comes to their swimming pools.

Swimming pools in most Fitness Clubs are not required to have lifeguards on duty and therefore become “Swim at Your Own Risk” pools. The problem with this approach is that when an emergency does arise in the swimming pool, there is no trained professional available in the pool area to respond in a timely fashion. It should be strongly stated that older populations are now the only age group experiencing an increase in drowning deaths.

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Flight of Stairs Engineer

Don’t always blame the Tread and Riser for the Fall

Robert J. Nobilini, Ph.D., Biomechanical Engineer ::::

Case Synopsis: Plaintiff testified that she was in the process of descending a flight of stairs, one step at a time. She had stepped down onto the first tread with both feet and was stepping down onto the second tread with her right foot when her foot went out in front of her. The heel of her foot barely contacted the front edge of the second tread, and she fell backwards down the rest of the stairs.

Expert Analysis: Plaintiff’s expert opined that the stair treads were shorter than what was required by present code and that there were inconsistencies in the tread and riser dimensions. He concluded that the plaintiff’s fall was due to these issues.

Plaintiff’s medical records revealed that 16 years prior to her fall she was diagnosed with avascular necrosis of the left hip due to osteoporosis and underwent a hip replacement. Since her hip replacement, she descended stairs one step at a time. Four months prior to her fall, she underwent a revision of her left hip.

Biomechanical research has shown that descending stairs too slowly lengthens the time a person has to support their weight on one leg and increases the risk of a fall. Plaintiff’s testimony that her right leg went out in front of her and that she barely contacted the front edge of the second tread was consistent with the plaintiff’s left leg giving way due to her prior left hip issues. As a result, her center of mass began falling backwards causing her right foot to move forward of the second tread.

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