An accident reconstruction expert witness advises on a case involving a slip and fall in a hotel bathroom. The plaintiff was staying at a hotel while traveling for work. He had been a guest for several days and noticed that the bathroom tile floor was exceptionally slippery. Due to the slipperiness of the bathroom floor, each morning after his shower, he took special care to place a cloth mat down before stepping out of the shower. Every morning the housekeeping employee had placed a towel over the edge of the shower railing, so it was easily accessible. The day of the fall, neither a towel nor the cloth mat was hanging on the shower railing. Instead, a cloth mat was draped over the edge of the bathtub. Plaintiff took his usual shower. As the plaintiff prepared to exit the shower, he reached over for the cloth bath mat hanging on the bathtub and slipped on the shower floor, falling onto the hard bathroom tile floor, striking and injuring his head, left shoulder and left leg.
As a result of the fall, plaintiff injured his neck, back, both legs and left shoulder. He has undergone extensive medical care, including left shoulder surgery. The plaintiff continues to suffer from orthopedic symptoms and requires lumbar spine and shoulder surgery.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Was the defense’s testing of the coefficient of friction accurate?
- 2. Should the hotel have foreseen the problem with its towel placement?
Expert Witness Response
It is my professional opinion that the defense expert’s sliptesting results are not an accurate reflection of the coefficient of friction of the shower stall floor. The use of Neolite as the material for the tribometer test foot is inadequate to simulate what happened in the subject accident. Although Neolite is typically used as material for the test foot during sliptesting, it is not a true representation of the human skin.
Another expert’s testing indicates the actual coefficient of friction of the wet shower floor is likely considerably lower than 0.38 stated by the defense expert.
It is reasonably foreseeable that guests would fail to see the white bath mat on the bathtub and/or not place it on the ground prior to stepping into the shower. Placing a bath mat out of reach of showering guests creates an unnecessary and easily avoidable risk of slipping when one tries to reach for the mat draped on the bathtub. The hotel should always place a bath mat/fluffy towel over the shower stall in order for guests to be able to remain in the shower while also placing a mat down before stepping out.
The expert has a doctorate in engineering and is a board-certified forensic engineer who has reconstructed more than 10,000 accidents. He has more than 20 years of experience in risk assessment and has authored more than 200 articles, reports and presentations, as well as books on risk and safety questions.