Construction Expert Witness Discusses Collapsing Deck

    Construction expertThis case involves the allegedly negligent residential construction of an oceanfront deck on the part of a private architect. The plaintiff, in this case, was visiting family at their oceanfront home. The home was eight years old and featured a large deck which oversaw the beach. The ground, itself, was slightly uneven, as it sloped towards the beach. The plaintiff’s family had multiple guests over for a barbecue, and, by midday, had over thirty-four people on the deck. Eventually, the deck collapsed, and numerous individuals sustained serious injuries. The plaintiff sustained a broken arm and a concussion due to the fall.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. How can a deck be analyzed to ensure that it was constructed according to the correct regulatory and professional standards?

    Expert Witness Response

    In many cases, collapsing decks are caused by an excessive amount of individuals on the deck at one time. Weather conditions, age of the deck, and environmental factors can all play a role in issues that arise with the decking. For regulatory concerns, there are usually two sets that need to be considered: any local requirements and state requirements. There are some, general federal requirements, but usually the issues involve more state concerns. It should be noted, however, that local requirements cannot be stricter than state requirements. Thus, though this property was in a unique location (the beach at an angle), the standard is relatively similar statewide. The unique circumstances, however, should have been considered by the construction team when designing and assembling the deck. Any regulatory deficiencies would likely be discovered by examining the blueprints and a site examination. Decks should not collapse, and an analysis of the size of the deck, along with the design and wood used, should reveal if there may have been a flaw with it. Also, in many cases, the architect and construction worker should note the limits of the deck, especially if extensive usage is a possibility. If this did not occur, or was not noted, the parties may be liable for failing to warn.

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