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Plaintiff was a 5 year old child that fell through a gap between the horizontal railings of at a guardrail at an outdoor observation platform located on a small hill overlooking a lake.

At the time of the incident, the railing was not in compliance with the Building Codes. The guardrail to the observation platform was configured such that there were large gaps in the guardrail with a vertical height opening/clearance ranging from 10" to 12" high, with open horizontal spans ranging from 8' to 10' without any vertical posts.

The relevant 1994 Uniform Building Codes sections regarding railings in general, and specific to railing openings include:

Chapter 5 - General Building Limitations

Section 509 - Guardrails

509.1 Where Required.
"Unenclosed floor and roof openings, open and glazed sides of stairways, landings and ramps, balconies or porches, which are more than 30" above grade or floor below, and roofs used for other than service of the building shall be protected by a guardrail."

509.2 Height..
"The top of guardrails shall not be less than 42" in height"

509.1 Openings.
"Open guardrails shall have intermediate rails or an ornamental pattern such that a sphere 4" in diameter cannot pass through."

The subject guardrail opening which ranged from 10" to 12" was not in compliance with the Building Codes, which required an opening "such that a sphere 4" in diameter cannot pass through."

Plaintiff contended that the Defendant negligently maintained the observation platform in allowing the Non-UBC compliant guardrail openings to exist at the time of the incident. Original architectural plans for the platform indicate that a wood lattice was to be placed at the guardrail to block the openings. There was indication that at one point in time, there was lattice covering the railing at the area where the incident occurred, but was removed some time prior to the Plaintiff's incident.

The Defendant alleged that the Plaintiff did not fall through the gaps at the railing, but climbed on a chair and fell over the railing. As such, Defendant contended that the issue of maintenance of the wood lattice, and compliance with the provisions of the Building Code regarding Guardrail Openings were not relevant to the subject litigation.

WEXCO's Construction Accident Analysis Team was retained as the Safety & Construction Expert relative to:

  • Evaluation of the safety of the observation platform and its various components including the railings and its conformance with applicable Codes (i.e. Uniform Building Code, International Building Code, California Building Code, etc.), Regulations (i.e. Cal/OSHA, ADA, etc.), and industry standards (i.e. ANSI, ASTM, etc.).
  • Analysis relative to the responsibilities and conduct of the Plaintiff, and Defendant Property Owner, relative to the use of the observation platform and with Standards within the industry.
  • Evaluation of the Plaintiff and Defendant's actions relative to safe conduct.
  • Analysis regarding the accident mechanics (accident reconstruction) involved in the Plaintiff's fall through the gap at the railing in comparison with the Plaintiff's fall over the top of the railing.
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Dr. Stephen C. Wexler: 40 years experience in construction, construction management, safety and related. Unusual combination of safety engineering and construction and civil engineering permits separate areas within construction, safety, and premises liability. 6 years Instructor at UCLA Evening Extension in Engineering & Construction Management, and 4 years US Navy Seabees Instructor for Construction Management - Port Hueneme, CA and Gulfport, Mississippi.

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