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Slip and Fall at Mountain Resort


Higgins & Associates was hired by an insurance carrier to provide professional engineering claims support related to a slip and fall claim that allegedly took place on an exterior wooden staircase of a mountain resort lodge. It was claimed that the stairs were not compliant with building code and that the area was insufficiently lit which contributed to the incident.  Given the age of the building, we were required to marry the building code of 1930 (original construction) with the code in force during repairs to the stairs that took place prior to the date that the current owner purchased the property.


While visiting the site to perform observation and measurements we also performed Slip Resistance Index testing using the English XL Variable Incidence Tribometer. Our analysis demonstrated that the stairs’ slip index exceeded the minimum standard recommended by the American Society of Safety Engineers. After extensive research and analysis, we concluded that while the local Authority Having Jurisdiction had adopted the 2015 International Building Code (IBC), the 1927 Uniform Building Code (UBC) would likely govern as original construction took place in 1930. Further, by determining the tread-to-stringer connectors were consistent with an applicable historic patent issue date, those repairs were likely performed under the IBC Code first published in 1997. We proved the geometry of the stairs was allowed under the 1930 code, and due to the existing building geometric constraints did not allow reconstruction or repairs to comply with 1997 building code requirements. Therefore, the stair was permitted to be repaired or replaced in its original geometry, by the same 1997 code. Lastly, relating to the alleged insufficient lighting claim; the incident reportedly took place at 4:30pm. Our research showed that sunset on the alleged date of the incident was 7:07PM with twilight extending until at least 7:30 PM, thus it does not appear that an alleged malfunctioning light would have contributed to the alleged slip and fall incident


With our help, the insurance carrier was able to reach a successful settlement with the alleged claimant. The carrier’s Executive General Adjuster informed us the Slip Resistance Index results, the geometric constraints under the 1997 code and the sunset time analysis were key factors used in the process of reaching a successful settlement.   

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