The Stone Detective
The Case of the Slip and Fall Cell Phone Call
Fred M. Hueston, PhD
Stone Care Consultant

I'd just finished my third cup of Jo at the local greasy spoon when Marge, the waitress, came up to me and asked if I wanted another cup. I was just reading an article on how texting while driving is worse than drunk driving. I was so engrossed in the article I ignored her and continued reading.

"Well, excuse me, hon," she said and she stomped away with coffee pot in hand.

"Marge," I yelled, "sorry, I was reading this article on texting."

She said, "Oh," and started telling me about a friend of hers who got in an accident while texting. Now, you have to understand Marge was a carbon copy of Flo on the TV show, "Alice." She was going on and on and finally my cell phone rang. I pointed at "Flo," motioning that I had to take this call.

"Stone Detective, here." The voice on the other end told me that they had a slip fall accident on their marble lobby floor and they needed me to do a safety audit to see if it met all the requirements and regulations. Well, this was right up my alley since I just completed a slip fall safety program for another hotel a few months ago.

I got the address and headed for the door before "Flo" could catch me. Little did I know that article in the paper was going to lead to an interesting find on this inspection.

I arrived at a very fancy older hotel. I thought I was walking onto a 1950's movie set. The hotel had those large chandlers and the most beautiful white marble floor I ever saw. I walked up to the front desk and asked for the general manager. Within a few minutes, a gentleman walked up to me and introduced himself.

He was tall, wearing a fancy Italian suit and had a pencil thin mustache. Reminded me of Boris Karloff. He spoke with a slow, deliberate delivery and started walking away from me as he did. I followed him. He led me to the top of a set of steps and told me a lady was walking a few days ago and slipped on top of the steps, fell and broke her leg. Of course, she was threatening a lawsuit, claiming the floor was dangerous and slippery.

I got out my trusty slip meter and started taking readings both wet and dry. All the readings were well within the Coefficient of Friction. I was scratching my head trying to figure out why and how she slipped.

Just as I was putting my meter away, a security guard came up and started talking to me, asking me about the meter. He was a talkative son of a gun and just kept asking question after question. I could hardly get a word in edge wise. I just continued to put my instruments away when something he said got my attention.

He was rambling on and on about kids trying to run their skateboard over the marble. He said, "It's a good thing we have surveillance cameras all over the place." I stopped him and asked him if they had digital recordings and how long they kept them.

He told me that they keep a continuous record of them for a long time but didn't know how long. What was the chance they caught this lady on tape, I was thinking. I told him about the lady falling and asked if we could take a look at the tapes from the day she fell. He got on his radio and called his boss. "No problem," he said. "Let's go."

He started walking up the steps and we entered a door to the right. We walked into a room that looked like something out of an FBI show. It had monitors all over the place. The man behind the monitors typed in a few keystrokes and, lo and behold, we were watching this lady walk down the hall.

She was holding something in her hand and I couldn't quite make it out. I asked if he could zoom in on it. When he did, we discovered she had a cell phone and she was texting. You can guess what happened next. She continued to walk as she texted and didn't even see the steps. She then took a tumble and fell down forward.

Her cell phone went flying and she began screaming. Another case solved. So, now we not only have to be careful texting and driving, we have to be careful texting while walking.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Fred Hueston, written to be entertaining and educational. Frederick M. Hueston is the founder of Stone Forensics (, a nationally known stone consulting company, and also the technical director for He has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration. He also serves as a expert for many legal cases across the world. Email comments to him at

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