Tag Archives: Bryan J. Smith

Ground Defect Causes Delay, Putting Pedestrian in Harm’s Way


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

Case Description/Summary: The plaintiff was bicycling on a public street which was located at the side of a bank’s property. As she entered the bank’s driveway ramp, a ground surface defect caused her bicycle to become unstable, though it did not fall. The plaintiff quickly tried to stabilize the bicycle by taking her feet off of the bicycle’s foot pedals and placing them onto the ground in order to prevent the bike and herself from falling onto the sidewalk. As she attempted to do so, she was struck by an automobile being driven by one of the defendants. The plaintiff alleged that the motor vehicle collision caused her injuries.

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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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Slip & Fall: What was the Source of the Leak?


Slip and Fall Expert

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

Case Description: A bank manager entered the employee break room, where they slipped and fell due to the presence of a clear liquid on the floor. Shortly before this occurred, an irrigation system water line was found to be cracked and spraying water at the exterior of the building for approximately three hours. The plaintiff’s expert alleged that the presence of the clear liquid at the incident location was due to the broken irrigation line.

Expert Analysis: A site survey was conducted approximately 3½ years after the incident to gather evidence on behalf of the defendants. Data collected during the site inspection led to the creation of a partial basement floor plan. Measurements were taken of the distance between the incident location and the leaking irrigation pipe. It was determined that the distance between the two locations was 18 feet (see the image, above). The plaintiff’s expert took no field measurements, with the exception of the Coefficient of Friction (COF) of the incident flooring, which was measured using a tribometer. His predictable results concluded that the wet vinyl floor tile was slippery when wet. Without even a rudimentary root cause analysis, this expert concluded that the leaking irrigation pipe was the proximate source of wetness observed on the incident flooring, as well as the proximate cause for the incident.

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Icy Falls: Are Property Owners Always to Blame?


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

Case Description: While walking on the sidewalk toward the apartment she rented, the plaintiff alleged that she stepped onto an icy patch and fell, resulting in multiple injuries. Plaintiff’s expert opined that the sidewalk had a slight concave surface to it, allowing water from weather events to pool in it. Freezing temperatures allowed the pooled water to freeze, causing the slipping hazard that the plaintiff experienced. The plaintiff sued the property owner and property manager.

Expert Analysis: A site survey was conducted approximately a year after the incident to gather evidence. Still photography and videography were performed, as well as slope measurements. The evidence showed that the incident sidewalk surface was indeed concave; however, it was also sloped to a degree that allowed water to completely run out of the slightly dished area. The survey also revealed that adjacent to the alleged fall location was a decorative stone half-wall that a prudent pedestrian might grasp onto in order to afford stability while walking over ice, if any had been present. The plaintiff alleged that she chose not to grasp the half-wall.

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Slip, SLIDE and Fall


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

Case Description/Summary: While preparing for an annual festival, the plaintiff, a temporary employee of the property owner, was helping a frozen fish delivery person load the delivered products into an exterior walk-in cooler. The plaintiff loaded frozen fish boxes onto a cart and he intended to pull the cart up the cooler’s interior metal ramp so that he didn’t have to carry each individual box. He never looked down at the ramp floor before stepping upon it.

The plaintiff’s walking actions were not those of a normal pedestrian, just walking upon a flat, level surface. He was on a sloped ramp that was 8.3% sloped from the normal plane (a moderately slight incline from a horizontal plane). Under normal walking conditions, this slope would be considered shallow and far from being excessive – even for pedestrians with walking difficulties. The steeper a slope is, the more a pedestrian standing on it will have his weight (see black arrow in the illustration below) act to affect a slide down the ramp. This is because when weight is applied to a sloped surface, a portion of the weight vector will go “normal” (perpendicular – see yellow arrow) to the ramp’s surface. The remaining force vector of the weight would be applied parallel (see green arrow) to the sloped surface.

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Even Duct Tape has its Limitations!


slip-trip-fall-expert-witness

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

Case Description/Summary: A retail patron attempted to exit the establishment’s front entryway when a piece of raised duct tape on the flooring caught his toe causing him to trip and fall down the exterior steps of the facility. The plaintiff received serious and permanent injuries during this event.

Expert Analysis: A site survey was conducted approximately two years after the incident to gather evidence on behalf of the plaintiff. The building’s entryway threshold was found to have duct tape, similar to that seen in photos taken by the plaintiff at the time of the incident. (see photo below). It was apparent that the establishment’s owner/operator used the duct tape to secure loose rolled vinyl flooring at the door’s threshold position. The owner/operator would remove and reapply duct tape at that location “as-needed” when it became loose and detached. His actions established notice of the condition and the temporary nature of the duct tape “repair.”

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