Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Expert Engineering Report for the Slipperiness of a Surface

In researching recent verdicts in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania lawsuits I stumbled on an interesting expert report from a plaintiff's engineering expert regarding how slippery surfaces are allowed to be, specifically the coefficient of friction.

The case in question concerned a gentleman who had stayed at a local, upscale, hotel for several nights.  On his last night he went into his bathroom.  The bathroom was tiny.  It was so small, in fact, that the man had to close the door each time to use the sink and toilet.  The bathroom also had a small bath towel that room service would always place on the floor.  At the time in question, the man walked into the bathroom and attempted to close the door.  The door, however, caught a part of the towel.  The man was simultaneously standing on the towel as there was nowhere else for him to stand.  As he tried to close the door, the towel, on tile floor, slipped from under him causing him to crash into the bath tub and sustain lacerations to his back.

This seems like a questionable case until the plaintiffs provided the testimony of an engineering expert who explained that there is a minimum "slip coefficient" that hotels must meet in order to comply with various safety regulations.  The full reports is posted below.  The coefficient of friction (COF) between the bath towel and the tile floor in the hotel room was found to be .25.  It is generally accepted, however, that a COF of 0.5 or greater (greater than 0.6 according to the Americans with Disabilities Act) is considered to be safe while a COF of less than 0.5 is considered to be dangerous.  Interesting, I guess, but what does it mean?

To put things in perspective, a COF of 0.25 is the equivalent of rubber soled shoes on ice.  That's pretty slippery!  The lawyers in this case also discovered, through the course of litigation, that the defendant hotel had a safety committee that should have known about the COF in their hotel's bathrooms.

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