Building Codes Expert Evaluates Fall Caused by Unstable Railing


Building Codes Expert WitnessThis case involves an elderly man in Oklahoma who suffered a serious injury after falling due to an unstable railing. At the time of the incident in question, the man was at a restaurant eating breakfast when he got up to use the restroom. On the way to the restroom, which is accessible only via an exterior set of shallow steps, the plaintiff held onto the handrail which was noted to be loose and wobbly. Due to the instability of the railing, the plaintiff lost his balance and fell, causing him to sustain a compound fracture of his right arm. It was claimed that the railing was not up to building code standards at the time of the incident.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Can you determine if this railing was up to code at the time of this incident?

Expert Witness Response E-009345

This case sounds like something I investigate every day. The applicable building code is the one in effect during the last major renovations. It sounds like we are talking 65 BOCA or so. ADA requires all facilities to meet their standards with minor exceptions (unduly burdensome, extreme cost, etc). The  property maintenance code for this jurisdiction will also come into play, specifically with maintenance of the stairs and handrail. I have extensive experience with ADA/Transportation regulations & compliance, OSHA, and building codes including a wealth of practical and consulting experience. I have reviewed a number of slip and fall cases in the past and am very familiar with the area where this case takes place.

Expert Witness Response E-006332

I believe I am qualified to consult on this case. I am licensed to practice in the state where this incident took place and have recently worked on other cases in the area. I am extremely well versed with building codes and ADA compliance. As you note, there are various and complex fact issues. This case seems to pre-date the ADAAG 2010 requirements that went into effect in 2012, so the details will be found in ANSI 117 and the relevant building code. In chapter 3 of the building code that describes uses, assembly use is clearly defined and most likely applies to this area. Then, you have to apply chapter 10 and chapter 11, which will show that this station does not comply with code — it is a non-conforming egress and entrance. The stair and railing clearly violate building code standards.

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