Expertly Speaking

Incident at Laundromat

Bryan J. Smith, P.E., Construction Site Safety/Slip, Trip and Fall Expert

Case Description/Summary: A laundromat patron approached the facility’s side entrance door from the exterior. After opening the door, she tripped on a 5-gallon cigarette bucket as she attempted to move out of her partner’s way into the building. The plaintiff’s expert alleged that the presence of the cigarette bucket at the incident location was due to the laundromat owner’s negligence and that the bucket infringed on patrons’ ability to egress the facility during emergent situations and hence violated the fire code.

Expert Analysis: A trip and fall expert was engaged by counsel for the defendant’s insurance company. A site survey was conducted just over 3 years after the incident to gather evidence on behalf of the defendant. Data collected during the site inspection led to the identification of the required means of egress pathway, necessary to comply with the adopted International Fire Code (IFC). The IFC defined “MEANS OF EGRESS. A continuous and unobstructed path of vertical and horizontal egress travel from any occupied portion of a building or structure to a public way. A means of egress consists of three separate and distinct parts: the exit access, the exit and the exit discharge.” IFC Section 1030.2 stated: “Reliability. Required exit accesses, exits or exit discharges shall be continuously maintained free from obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency when the areas served by such exits are occupied.”

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3D Animation: Structural Failure of A Power Step

Hugh Borbidge, BSME, Director of 3D Engineering Animations



Our client came to us with an interesting challenge. How do we show the stresses involved in the structural failure of a Power Step? My first question was, what is a Power Step? Is it a new aerobics class? A Power Step is a hydraulic bucket lift that allows workers to board oversized construction equipment.

A previous failure of the Power Step involved a worker who fell from the bucket to the ground, sustaining serious injuries. A mechanical engineer was retained to study the stresses placed on the arm of the Power Step as it raised and lowered. The engineer was able to provide color stress maps of the arm at a few key positions.

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Vice Grip Slip

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

A homeowner was sued after a neighbor, who borrowed a mid-sized farm tractor, was fatally injured while using the tractor on his personal property. The neighbors had a years-long friendly agreement to share the tractor at will; however, its owner assumed responsibility for maintaining it. On the day of the incident, the neighbor was operating the tractor to mow a parcel of ground. Later that day, family members grew concerned of their loved one’s absence, and walked the fields to search for him. There they found the tractor, still running and wheels turning, but wedged against a stand of trees. Nearby, they found the neighbor’s body. Preliminary investigation revealed that the tractor’s seat had detached from the tractor and that the neighbor had fallen off and into the towed mowing attachment.

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Distracted Driving: Was Texting and Driving Involved in the Collision?

Timothy R. Primrose, Mobile Forensic Analyst

Case Synopsis: A southbound commercial tractor-trailer was in the process of turning left onto a general access roadway as a northbound passenger vehicle approached. As the tractor-trailer turned left, the tractor portion crossed the northbound lane of travel and its trailer straddled the northbound lane of travel. A collision occurred while the right side of the left-turning tractor-trailer was exposed to the oncoming passenger vehicle, and the passenger vehicle traveled underneath the trailer before coming to rest. Unfortunately, the operator of the passenger vehicle sustained severe injuries from the crash and did not survive.

Analysis: The iPhone 6 that belonged to the operator of the passenger vehicle was examined to see if cell phone usage was a contributing factor in the collision. The forensic analyst followed proper protocols and placed the mobile device in airplane mode prior to conducting a forensically sound acquisition. The mobile device did not have visible damage and it was not locked with a passcode. The investigator extracted, reviewed and analyzed data respective to the time frame of the collision. Review of a timeline of events proved that the iPhone 6 was not used immediately preceding or during the time of the incident.

Timothy R. Primrose, Mobile Forensic Analyst with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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Resident Hot Water Scalding – Property Maintenance and Product Compliance

Timothy Sass, MSCE, P.E., Consulting and Design Engineer

Case Description: When the subject West Philadelphia three-bedroom row home was originally constructed 80 years ago, it was built to house a single family. More recently however, the home’s bedrooms and basement began serving as living quarters for individual families. The 4 families living in the row home also share its only bathroom on the 2nd floor.

Mr. Stefan* is renting one of the rooms in the house. Recently the young father took his young son into the 2nd floor bathroom to give him a bath in the sink. As Mr. Stefan got his son situated in the sink, his son inadvertently kicked the hot water handle on the faucet. Almost instantly, scalding hot water coming from the faucet ran all over the baby’s body, causing him to suffer 1st and 2nd degree burns from his stomach down onto his legs.

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Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint Systems

John R. Yannaccone, P.E., Senior Mechanical Engineer

Case Synopsis: A residential facility contracted with a service to transport a patient, in her power wheelchair, to another facility for treatment. While enroute the transport van was struck by another vehicle, which reportedly failed to stop at a stop sign. After the crash, the patient being transported was found entrapped in the occupant belt with the shoulder portion across her neck and the wheelchair overturned. The patient died from blunt force trauma and neck fracture.

In addition to the residential facility, transport company and both drivers, the manufacturers of the van, wheelchair and wheelchair restraint system were also named defendants.

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