Rise and Fall

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Q: Over three years ago, with my seventh-grade classmates, I was rehearsing for a concert.  As I walked across a stage riser, it collapsed.  A month ago, our attorney hired an engineer.  She has examined the point at which the riser’s support braces lock together by means of a spring-loaded pin.  Our expert observed a brace-bar bent outward.  She says that this is not consistent with normal wear.  Our expert also found other parts of the support mechanism that failed to lie flush, or were bent, or were flared-open.

Based upon her observations, our expert thinks that, when I walked across the riser, the bent condition of an upper brace-bar and flared condition of a lower C-channel caused the brace-locking mechanism to disengage.  That is why the riser collapsed.  She further states that these defects were easily observable.  Their existence leads her to believe that the riser had not been properly maintained or inspected.

And what is res ipsa loquitur?

A: Unless the school proves that the damage to the riser took place after (or because of) your accident, it is not prohibitive that your expert did not examine the riser until three years later.  A court can still find that her opinion possesses sufficient factual and scientific foundation.

For res ipsa to apply, the riser must have been within school’s ‘exclusive control’ (which appears to be the case).  If so, the jury gets greater latitude with respect to circumstantial evidence. To establish ‘exclusive control’, you are not obligated to eliminate every alternative explanation for the event, but only to demonstrate that the likelihood of causes other than the school’s negligence is so reduced that the greater probability lies at its door.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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