The owner of a public venue has a responsibility to ensure that their property is safely navigable by all guests. When an owner fails to meet this goal and an injury occurs, biomechanical analysis can help a jury determine whether or not the owner is at fault, and even promote improvements in safety.
In May, 2006, Kacee Poteet, age 32, was entering Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf in Branson, MO, with her husband and three children. Carrying her 18-month-old on her left hip, Ms. Poteet paused on the entry landing to wait for her husband, who was pushing a stroller up the wheelchair ramp. As he drew near, Ms. Poteet stepped off the 11” landing with her left foot, unaware that there was no intermediate step to the sidewalk below. As a result of the incident, Ms. Poteet sustained severe fractures to the left ankle.
The Poteets retained Brad Bradshaw MD JD LC, Springfield, MO, (https://www.bradbradshaw.com) to represent them in their case. In turn, Dr. Bradshaw asked Hayes+Associates, Inc, to analyze the biomechanics of Ms. Poteet’s injuries.
H+A Associate, Ellen L. Lee, PE, evaluated the case based on the fundamental laws of physics, the biomechanics of stair descent, and the forces on Ms. Poteet’s ankle. She determined that the forces on Ms. Poteet’s ankle from unexpectedly stepping off the unguarded landing were substantially greater than established injury tolerance limits for her ankle.
Lee also used the International Building Code guidelines for the design of safe steps to demonstrate that the 11” drop at Pirate’s Cove far exceeded safe stair dimensions.
H+A CEO Wilson C. “Toby” Hayes, PhD, provided videotaped testimony and the jury found for the Plaintiff, assigning 65% responsibility to the Defendant.
Subsequent to the incident, Pirate’s Cove installed a barrier at the location so that the only option for entry is the secure two-step decent.
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.