This case involves a man who fell down a flight of stairs at a basketball game. The plaintiff, a twenty-eight-year-old male, was seated fifteen rows behind the basketball hoop during the game. The arena was used for both basketball and hockey games. In order to adjust for the different sports, the arena’s staff would adjust the flooring, and specifically, would adjust the seating by rolling out large bleacher-like seats for fans to sit behind the basket. The bleachers were made from a combination of metal and wood. On the day in question, the arena hosted a hockey game in the afternoon and a basketball game at night and the crew was assembling and moving seating up until an hour before the basketball was to start. During the game, the plaintiff left his seat to use the restroom in the concourse. On his way back to his seat, the man tripped on a broken step and fell. He suffered a broken wrist, three cracked ribs, and a laceration on his arm. The step that the plaintiff tripped on was cracked, with a 3/4 of an inch gap at its widest point.
Expert Witness Response
Any stadium or arena is responsible for the safety of the fans who attend the game or concert. In this case, the step may have been broken prior to the arena’s transition from a hockey venue to a basketball one. Usually, before and after any event, the arena’s staff if required to survey the conditions to ensure that there are not any hazards. If the broken step was discovered during the inspection, the arena’s staff should have fixed it or placed a warning sign that the step was broken in order to let the fans sitting in that section know of the danger. There is an added risk with movable seating, like the bleachers in question, because of the risk that they can be damaged while in transit. I worked as an arena safety officer for over thirty-two years, and I can speak to how thoroughly stadiums should be checked when they are converted from one sport to another. A full review of the procedures the stadium took in storing, installing, and inspecting the basketball seats would reveal if the stadium should have known about the step and replaced it.
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