Design of Movie Theater Contributes to Injury


design engineer expert witness discusses movie theater designThis case involves an injury to a movie theater patron. The movie complex in question was redesigned in 2012 in order to add thirty seats in each theater. In order to accomplish this goal, the movie complex added seats to the designated handicap spots in the back of the theater, which caused the added seats to extend into the aisle. Because of this, there were plans to add an additional exit, but construction was not scheduled to begin until eight months after the incident in question. During the movie, the plaintiff had to go to the restroom but waited until the film’s conclusion. As soon as the movie ended, the plaintiff rushed to exit the movie theater but tripped on the seats which extended into the aisle. The plaintiff sustained a broken leg, two cracked ribs, and a fractured wrist.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Should the seats have been extended into the aisle, and did this represent a dangerous condition?

Expert Witness Response

Expert-ID:

In areas where a rapid exit may be required, it is important that all exits are clearly marked. In movie theaters, there are usually multiple exits that need to be designated, however, in some large movie theaters (which can hold hundreds of people), all exits need to be readily accessible and clear of obstructions. In this case, the safety considerations largely depend on the how far the seats extended into the aisle and whether any warnings were present, making the patrons aware of the potentially dangerous circumstance. Also, given the fact that there were plans to add an extra exit (presumably to compensate for the decreased exit space), the complex should have waited until the additional exit could have been completed before allowing patrons to go back into the movie theater.

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