Forensic architecture expert witness advises on a case involving an injured man who became lost in a hospital. The victim went to the defendant hospital’s emergency area. Because the emergency department was not clearly visible to him, he went down the wrong hallway and encountered locked doors. While attempting to return to the correct area, he collapsed and struck his head. He was discovered by a passerby.
The fall resulted in disabling injuries that rendered him immobile in a bed or wheelchair. He died less than a year later. His survivor filed a claim for wrongful death against the hospital and the architect who designed the emergency department renovations.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Was the architect professionally negligent in renovating the emergency department?
- 2. What regulations were violated?
- 3. Was the hospital also negligent?
Expert Witness Response
The defendant architects lacked the experience and training to work on this type of project. The lead architect had only worked on two prior emergency department projects, did not consider himself a specialist and did not know what the Facilities Guideline Institute’s “Guidelines for Design and Construction of Hospital and Healthcare Facilities” (FGI Guidelines) were. The FGI Guidelines represent the minimum standards for planning and designing healthcare facilities.
State building code requires the emergency department lobby to have a reception and control area. The defendant’s design removed the existing security desk – the control area – from the lobby, leaving the lobby empty. Furthermore, the defendant also expanded the lobby area in such a way that the natural flow of the lobby would send people looking for the emergency department down the corridor away from the ED. This design violated FGI guidelines. The defendant’s failure to warn the hospital of the violations breached the professional standard of care.
The hospital also was negligent in failing to hire an architect that specialized in the design of emergency departments and in removing the security desk from the emergency entrance lobby.
The expert is an architect who works primarily with hospitals and emergency departments, working on hundreds of projects over the course of more than 50 years.