Forensic Meteorologist Comments on Ice Formation in Slip and Fall


Forensic MeteorologyThis case takes place in Pennsylvania and involves a man who slipped on a sheet of ice and broke his wrist while on her commute. The average temperature the day prior well below freezing. The man was walking on the sidewalk, which was free of snow and ice, until he encountered a sheet of ice that blocked his path. The man observed water flowing from a fire hydrant and down the driveway of an apartment complex to the area where the sheet of ice was situated. He walked onto the street to avoid the ice, but upon encountering a mound of snow at the intersection, he was forced to cross the path of the flowing water. As a result, he slipped, fell, and broke his wrist. A forensic science expert in meteorology was retained to determine how much time would be needed to have elapsed for the sheet to form, based on the weather conditions.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Are you an expert in climatology/meteorology/weather? Please explain your qualifications.
  • 2. Do you frequently study winter weather and icy conditions and can you explain the properties of water and ice?
  • 3. With relevant data, can you determine how long a flowing stream of water would take to form as ice?

Expert Witness Response E-017526

I am highly qualified to review this case and glad to assist. I have authored hundreds of reports documenting weather conditions involved in slip and fall cases over the past 35 years. It is possible to make an estimate of the time it would take a flowing stream of water to freeze. That would certainly depend on the current air temperature, but also the wind direction and relative humidity at the time in question. In addition, the conditions during the preceding days are important in order to determine the temperature of the surface over which the water is flowing. The temperature of the water, the slope and composition of the surface are also important factors. I have been qualified as an expert in meteorology in dozens of court appearances across the United States over the past 30 years. I have a Bachelors, Masters and PhD degree in meteorology, and was a weather observer and forecaster in the Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Air National Guard. In addition, I have presented weather forecasts on radio and television across the country for the past 40 years.

Expert Witness Response E-017509

I work as a forensic meteorologist, and have been in business doing so for nearly 22 years. I hold a bachelor of arts degree in meteorology from UCLA and a Master of Science degree in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington. Many of my prior cases have involved slip/fall accidents and for those cases I have had to study the weather conditions to determine if ice/snow was present at the subject location. For a case involving a flowing stream of water, though, in addition to temperature data, I would also need to know the speed of the streaming water, slope angle and properties of the surface on which the water was flowing, the speed of the flow, and how long, the water had been flowing.

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