Collapsing Bench Requires Forensic Engineering Analysis


mechanical engineer expert witnessThis case involves a 190 pound female who was injured by a collapsing bench at a car dealership. The plaintiff dropped her car off at the dealership to have an oil change and tire rotation, along with other routine maintenance. The mechanic told the woman it would be approximately one hour and she decided to wait for it to be serviced. While waiting, she sat down on a wooden bench in a busy waiting area. Upon sitting down on the bench, it collapsed underneath her and the plaintiff fell to the floor. Consequently, the woman fractured her tailbone, sustained a concussion, and received multiple lacerations to her legs and arms after being cut by the splintered wood.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Should a bench with a particular tensile strength and load-bearing capacity be placed in a high traffic area where it could be used often?

Expert Witness Response

Generally speaking, businesses are responsible for their customer’s safety and well-being while they are patronizing their store. Here, the plaintiff was injured by a piece of property owned and on the premises of the car dealership. In this case, there are many factors that come into play. Whether this was a freak accident or the result of the defendant’s negligence can be determined by examining the bench. The condition of the bench and the weight capacity of the bench are important factors that will help in this determination. Specifically, the materials used, shape, and surface of the bench can be used in a calculation of the overall strength of the bench. This can be done through failure analysis, and inputting those factors. Initially, it appears as though the bench was either in disrepair or did not have a sufficient weight capacity to be placed in a busy waiting room because it collapsed underneath the 190-pound woman. It is foreseeable that a 190-pound individual would use a bench, and most are designed to take that into account. I have over thirty years of experience as a design and forensic engineer.

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