In October 2017, Jane Doe took her two-year-old boy, Johnny Doe, to visit a premier children’s museum. The museum had known for years that its young visitors daily climbed on the guard rails overlooking its rooftop garden. These guard rails were designed like ladders, easily climbed by young children. Beneath the guard rail was a six foot drop onto woody, sharp-stemmed plant life.
Johnny climbed up the guard rail. He lost his balance, toppled over the railing, and fell face-first onto the plant life below. The branches impaled his face, with one branch entering his eye socket and penetrating his brain.
The risk of the design of the barrier was obvious: any child could climb the railing and fall. The rails were perfect for climbing. They were built with smooth, 3/4” bars, which were easily gripped by small hands. The three inch spacing between bars made for easy reaching to the next handhold or foothold. The design is, not surprisingly, known as “the ladder effect.”
The museum was aware of children’s penchant for climbing everything in the museum, including these rails. Meanwhile, every other children’s museum in the region used climb-resistant barriers. Given the easy climbability of the guard rails, it was careless of the museum to place them over a six foot drop with sharp plants below.
Johnny was hospitalized for two months. He was diagnosed with hemiparesia (reduced strength and dexterity on one side of the body, accompanied by increased muscle spasticity), visual field cuts, and cognitive and emotional issues.
The Veen Firm helped Johnny and his family obtain a settlement of $7,000,000 from the museum.