Architecture Expert Witness Opines on Cafe Slip and Fall


Architecture Expert WitnessThis case involves a middle-aged man in Montana with a preexisting hip injury who suffered a fall while climbing a set of patio stairs at a local cafe. On the date of the incident in question, the man was meeting a friend for lunch at the cafe’s outdoor dining area, which was accessible form the sidewalk by a wide step of brick stairs. While climbing the stairs, the man lost his balance and fell, causing him to re-injure his hip. After an examination of the stairs was performed, it was determined that the stairs were constructed in a manner that did not adhere to the International Building Code for Stair Treads and Risers, in that the risers were not spaced proportionally and the staircase lacked railings. As a result of his injuries, the man required multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy in order to regain his ability to walk.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Do you have knowledge of building codes in place to ensure steps are adequately constructed and proper size?
  • 2. Do you have experience designing steps for establishment such as restaurants?

Expert Witness Response E-006332

I am licensed to practice Architecture in my state, and have multiple additional certifications. I provide expert consultation and opinions on building code issues including steps that are defined in chapters on means of egress and accessibility. If this cafe was planned and permitted as a historic adaptive reuse project, there may be certain additional code sections that may apply. Have you discovered the signed and sealed permit application Record Contract Documents? Was this project first occupied after 1992 so that it should have been designed within the guidelines of ADAAG – ANSI 117 accessibility requirements, or has this building been renovated since 1992? Before this accident, was the Plaintiff “disabled” within the meaning of the Federal ADAAG guidelines? In my professional practice, I have designed more than 110 hotels and resorts (each with restaurants) and more than 200 other restaurants, including restaurants designed within existing buildings and within historic existing buildings.

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