Was that Floor Structurally Unsafe?

When floors, balconies, and their supporting structures fail they can cause serious personal injuries and wrongful deaths. In Nevada, facility managers, building owners, or the architects who designed the structure can be held liable for negligence.

Notable Structural Failures

There have been multiple structural failures over the past few years that have caused significant injury and death. These include the failure of a clubhouse floor near Clemson University that injured 30 people. In that instance, the intended purpose of the building meant that the floor should have been sufficiently designed and braced to support the weight of facility users.

Another notable incident occurred in 1981 when two walkways at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City failed. The walkway collapsed suddenly and resulted in the deaths of 114 people with a further 216 suffering serious injuries. It was the deadliest structural failure in the United States prior to 9/11. Design flaws during the construction process meant that the walkway was not able to safely carry the load created as people made their way across the walkway.     

Design Liability for Structural Failure

Architects, engineers, and builders can be held liable for design and construction defects that result in floor collapse. For instance, if a floor or balcony is not properly designed or if the materials or methods used during the construction process cause failure. Those responsible for the structure at various stages of the process have a responsibility to ensure that the design and construction are sufficient to support the specified load.

Similarly, owners and landlords can be held liable for injuries and deaths that occur in deck collapses, floor collapses, etc. For instance, hosting a party or other event that negligently overloads the structure or any of the structures supporting elements. 

Signs of a Failing Structure

Floor failures are often preceded by signs of impending disaster. These include walls that bulge out, wood beams that are rotten, steel beams that are rusting through, sagging floors, and screws/bolts that pop out from the structure. When signs of structural failure begin to emerge, facility operators and building owners have a duty of care to limit access to the area and to perform any necessary repairs before allowing individuals back onto the floor whether it’s a conference room, a walkway, or a balcony.