In 2011, firefighter Kevin Wilson, 35, having been drinking and while moonwalking in heavy rain and leaning into 70 mph winds on a third story wooden balcony at a house on the Oregon Coast, fell over the railing onto a brick patio 23 feet below.
Wilson sustained surprisingly mild injuries including a concussion and elbow and rib fractures. Subsequently, he brought suit against the builder of the balcony, Ronald Hults Construction, Inc., alleging that the balcony railing was defective and had been the direct cause of his fall.
The defendant was represented by Robert D. Lowry of Eugene, OR (lowry-law.com), who retained Hayes+Associates, Inc, to conduct a scientifically reliable reconstruction of the fall and determine whether or not the railing had caused the fall.
An H+A team, including Engineering Associate Erik D. Power, PE, and President Wilson C. “Toby” Hayes, PhD, measured the height of the balcony, determined the wind speeds and, based on the fundamental laws of physics, generated a dynamic model of Mr. Wilson’s moonwalking form impacting the top rail of the balcony railing. Given Mr. Wilson’s height, the H+A analysis showed that it was the confluence of high wind velocity, slick surface, and Mr. Wilson’s moonwalking momentum toward the railing that caused his fall, not the railing itself.
The jury concurred and found for the defense.
Hayes+Associates, Inc. (http://www.hayesassoc.com) is an expert witness and consulting firm, based in Corvallis, OR. The company brings more than 75 years of collective experience in academic research, university teaching and forensic testimony to practice areas that include vehicle collisions, premises safety, slips and falls, products liability, worker safety, sports and recreation, patent litigation and criminal matters.