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After drunk concertgoer falls on her, injured woman sues Barclays Center over upper-deck design, alcohol service; lawsuit cites prior warnings of design flaws

The tight upper bowl of the Barclays Center means some very steep rows, and has left a certain fraction of arenagoers alarmed by the potential hazard, especially given narrow aisles, large people, and alcohol.

Now a lawsuit shines a spotlight on those issues. As first reported by DNAinfo yesterday, Billy Joel Fan Injured at Concert Sues Barclays Center Over Seating Design, a Long Island couple, Elizabeth and Lewis Silver, 53 sued the Barclays Center's operators after Elizabeth was injured when an unnamed "visibly intoxicated" man carrying beer fell on her during the New Year's Eve concert on 12/31/13.

Newsday followed up, reporting that Elizabeth Silver required arm surgery. "She shielded her daughter and ended up taking the brunt of the impact," lawyer Michael Castro told the publication.

The lawsuit, filed against Brooklyn Events Center, Levy Restaurants, and three affiliates of operator AEG, charges "an unreasonably unsafe, hazardous and dangerous seating design in the upper levels of the arena" as well as negligence for inadequate security and training, as well as a violation of the arena alcohol license.

Prior warnings

Perhaps most intriguing is the claim that arena operators have known "of the unsafe and dangerous nature of the seating design based upon the many prior complaints by other patrons."
They say the pitch of the upper deck is too steep and the aisles too narrow, with the danger compounded by the lack of railings on each aisle, and a trip hazard in that seat backs protrude into the row above.

Indeed, there have been numerous reviews, some excerpted below, warning explicitly of dangers. That's why I'd bet the defendants will settle this case rather than have the warnings about design flaws ventilated in a court proceeding.

Worse than other venues?

It's unclear whether the Barclays Center upper deck is steeper than at other venues, though some reviewers say so, comparing it to local rivals like Madison Square Garden and the Prudential Center. 

Given that the Barclays Center is modeled on the Conseco Fieldhouse--now BankersLife Fieldhouse--in Indianapolis, I checked to see if reviewers consider it steep. On Yelp, only a couple mentioned it, some considering it a positive. One called it dangerous. I don't know if the dimensions are exactly the same, though.

The reviews overall for the Barclays Center are positive, averaging 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor and 3.5 stars on Yelp. But some 1-star and 2-star reviews, excerpted below, show a significant fraction of warnings and dismay about the raked upper bowl and narrow aisles. They are not part of the lawsuit but might be cited.

From TripAdvisor: "It's a death trap"
“Scarry”: If you are a senior citizen and can't afford to get tickets at the orchestra level, don't go through what I experiened. In order to get to the upper level seats you have to climb up very narrow stairs and once you get to the top, once again you have to navigate through a very narrow area to get to seat. Don't quite understand how the builders were permitted to build such a hazardous place. 
“Terrifying”: The seats are completely out of control steep. It's a death trap. No exits in sight from where we sat at the top. If there was an emergency god help the audience. I will never go back and I will urge friends to not go. 
“It's a prison venue - I'd rather go to NJPAC”:  It's angled at more thatn 45 degrees. I'm 4'11" and the back of the seat in front of me was up to my ankles. When I stood I had this incredible feeling of falling over. And I was VERY sorry I bought a drink because I had to walk very slowly back down about 30 rows to get to a door that led to the hallways. Not sure who designed this venue but they have no clue what the top is like. By the way since the top seats are so angled even the staff is afraid of going up and down the stairs, therefore you are on your own to find your seats in the dark. 
“Seats are Scary!”:  I have never been so scared to get to a seat in my life. The stairs are extremely narrow going up. The rows are so narrow you can barley walk. And the rows in front of you don't even seem to exist. It's like you are on a 30 story balcony with no railing to catch you if you fall. It was horrible. 
"Expensive, steep seating, bad views.”: The stairs to get to our seats were the steepest in any arena I have been to. It was actually kind of scary walking to and from our seats. The space between the edge of your seat and the seat in front of you is extremely narrow. Also scary!  
“AWFUL EXPERIENCE”: "The upper section, the 200's are dangerous!! There is no room to get by anyone in the row. You are looking straight down, and feel like you will tumble down a few hundred feet. They tried so hard to pack as many people into the upper deck. Terrible experience, I don't know how it passed the building code as being safe. Avoid at all costs the 200 section!!!!!!!!!!! 
“Disappointed”: Also, it was a little steep climbing up there, I've been to other places and was seat high up and this was the worst. Very narrow and cramped.
From Yelp: "This place is an accident waiting to happen"
The seats in the 200 level are tiny and the rows are EXTREMELY narrow and straight up dangerous. Ladies, if your seat is more than 1 or 2 seats in from the aisle, DO NOT WEAR HEELS. You'll thank me later. Its like they didn't take into consideration that most of the people sitting in the 200 level are obese. There is literally no room to even white-boy-bounce.

Not to mention the 200 section is a sever accident waiting to happen, the design of the seating is horrible it is very narrow and steep. One wrong step and some one is going over!  
Beware!! Sitting in the 200 section was literally "living on the edge." The seating was so cramped and on such a pitch I was terrified to move a muscle until the concert was over.
As for the arena, I cannot believe the code official involved in this project approved the seating situation there. There is virtually no space for people to walk through the seat rows. People who had to get up in my row held on to me for dear life... That's INSANE!!! This place is an accident waiting to happen. 
There are some major design flaws inside. The most glaring being that the space is too small and far too steep in the upper deck. I GUARANTEE people are going to fall over the sides and die. Your feet are at the heads of the seats in front of you. There are small glass "guards" at the edge of the upper decks, someone is totally going to trip and fall over it! Wow, terrible design! 
Another bizarre design flaw is they put cupholders on the floor in front of your seat instead of on the arm of the seat to cram in more seats. So imagine this, you are trying to walk down the aisle , the WHOLE aisle absolutely has to stand up as the walkway is so thin between the rows , and on top of it, you are kicking peoples beers , which are...on the floor.
You have to be a freaking mountain goat to comfortably navigate the aisles, you fear for your life most of the game, and its loud and cheesy all over. FAIL!!!
I've been to the Barclay Center on two different occasions. I found the seats to be on a forward tilt and the stairs so narrow and steep that it's very scary walking down. Gives you the feeling as if you will fall forward at any moment. Had a very dear friend fall face forward because someone lost their balance and fell on her. Needless to say she ended up with a busted lip and missing teeth...TBC 
Someone is going to die here soon.
Crack heads were falling down three or four rows when we were there. They crashed into the woman sitting next to me and knocked her down three more rows, which started a free for all brawl, with ignorant onlookers rushing to capture the action on their cellphones. 
It was dark. It was cold. AND THE STAIRS AND SEATS. Who designed them? The stairs are so narrow, it's terrifying walking down them. You could fall so easily, all the way down, especially if you've been drinking. Same with the seats. The space between the seats is so narrow and it's so steep that one little accidental push or nudge would lead to someone falling. It's dangerous.
I can't believe it's even legal to make a space so dangerous.
As you may have read or heard, the 200 upper level seating is beyond abysmal. Mountain goats will consider Barclays a second home. Beam me up, Jay Z. A coach vs. first class comparison is apt.
The seating in the 200 section......DON'T BUY SEATING IN THE 200 SECTION.
SERIOUSLY. It's VERY STEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Feels legitmately dangerous in the 200 section. There will easily be people that fall and tumble from there. I guarantee it. There is ZERO room for walking in the aisles in the upper level seats. Jesus i wish i was kidding about this. 
The seating is arranged for you to never ever get up once it gets dark in there (unless you're suicidal). The incline is double black diamond and the row below of chairs is at your ankle, along with your beverage holder, making it an obstacle course for anyone trying to pass through.

I was literally hugging the five people in my row to get past them without falling to my (sure) demise. To reinforce the point of the steep incline and stupidly designed cup holder placement (and possibly the questionable sobriety of my fellow concert goers): five people in my small portion of the section went down face first into the rows in front of them. My right arm had hand print bruises for days.

That upper area is a disaster waiting to happen. The fact that they took so little interest in the upper is the kind of disdain for non rich people that they showed when bullying their way into the area.
The lawsuit (via DNAinfo)