someone walking on an outdoor staircase

In the very first episode of the tv show The Big Bang Theory Sheldon and Leonard are walking up the stairs to their apartment when they have this exchange:  

Sheldon – You want to hear an interesting thing about stairs?

Leonard – Not really.

Sheldon – If the height of a single step is off by as little as 2 millimeters most people will trip.

Leonard – I don’t care. *pause* 2 millimeters? That doesn’t seem right.

Sheldon – No, it’s true. I did a series of experiments when I was twelve. My father broke his clavicle

While we feel bad for Sheldon’s father, we are happy Sheldon shared this tidbit of information with the world. Staircase slip and fall accidents can cause very serious injuries, but many property owners do not take staircase construction and maintenance as seriously as they should. At Levin & Malkin, we have represented numerous North Jerseyans injured in staircase slip and fall accidents. 

Is 2mm All It Takes? 

The Big Bang Theory is well known for ensuring the scientific facts shared on the show are accurate. Even the whiteboards in the background of various shots have up-to-date scientific information on them. So, is Sheldon’s remark about stairs only needing to be off by 2 millimeters in order to cause people to trip true? It’s unclear.  

What we do know is that the human brain assumes stairsteps are all equal because most of the time they are. A small variance can make a big difference. 

A few years ago, filmmaker Dean Peterson released a viral video showing multiple NYC subway users tripping on the same step at the Sunset Park 36th Street stop. Turns out one of the stairs was less than an inch higher than the others. The Metro Transit Authority (MTA) shut down the stairway and fixed it right away. 

New Jersey building codes require the rise on each step of a staircase to be as uniform as possible, but they do not say a variance of 2 millimeters is too much. Many cities in the Hackensack area allow deviations of up to 3/8 of an inch, which is about 9.5 millimeters. 

Getting Compensation For Your Staircase Trip & Fall Accident 

As the fictional injury to Sheldon’s father illustrates, staircase slip or trip and fall accidents can be quite dangerous. Property owners should take staircase design and construction seriously. If a defect is noticed, a property owner should do as the MTA did and fix it as soon as they realize something is wrong. 

Property owners who know they have a defective staircase, and refuse to do anything about it, could be held liable if a visitor is injured because of it. This goes for any staircase defect, not just inconsistent riser heights. Levin & Malkin’s experienced team of personal injury attorneys have represented New Jersey residents in cases where an injury was caused by:

  • Broken or uneven steps
  • Broken or loose banisters
  • Torn carpeting or jagged tiles on the stairway
  • Stairways with obstructive, often barely visible, objects 
  • Iced or snowy stairways that have not been properly cleared
  • Highly polished steps that are slippery
  • Stairs with no supporting banisters
  • Unlit or dimly lit staircases

If you or a loved one was injured in a staircase slip or trip and fall accident, Levin & Malkin is here for you. Over the years we have won millions of dollars for our clients, and we are ready to help you get the compensation you deserve. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Posted in: Slip and Fall Accidents