Do bigger people fall harder?

A court has taken “judicial notice” of the following:

It is a well-recognized fact that big persons fall harder than small ones.
Garbutt v. Schechter, 334 P.2d 225 (Cal. Ct. App. 1959)

Judicial notice means that a fact is widely known to be true and uncontrovertible, so that no evidence is necessary for the court to take it as evidence.

Is it true that bigger people fall with more force than smaller ones? I’m aware of the accepted physics of the speed of two falling objects, but that would not seem to address what the court is saying here.

Speed is only one part of the equation. A marble and a piano will fall at more or less the same speed. Which would you prefer to have land on your head from an upstairs window?


Someone I knew a long time ago - early 1990s - tripped on a lump in a sidewalk (Boulder, CO) and badly broke his arm as he fell.

He attempted to sue the city, but lost for much the same reason, I imagine, as the cite provided in the OP. He was grossly obese and IIRC, it was tossed out because if he’d been of “normal” weight, this wouldn’t have happened - as since he was a very fat man, he should have exercised a greater degree of caution than “normal” when walking. Something along those lines, anyway.

As someone who has grown larger with the passing years I can assure you that it is indeed true: the bigger they are the harder they fall.


e - energy
m = mass
g = acceleration due to gravity
h = height

g is a constant in this problem so energy (ability to do work like breaking bones and stuff) is directly proportional to height and mass.

It’s the square cube law The force of the fall is related to your mass which is related to the cube of your length. Your resistance to the force is related to the cross-sectional area of your bones or the square of of your length. So as a function of length your falling energy/resistance to falls = (L)^3/(L)^2 =L. So the bigger you are the less resistance you have relative to the hardness of your fall. This is why ants can fall from the top of the ceiling and be unharmed, but you can’t.

It’s not so much the falling as it is the landing.

If “harder” means force, then definitely yes.

I’m a foot taller than my wife, and over 100 pounds heavier. That means if we were both to fall, I would have greater mass and a longer time to accelerate on the way down. More force.

Um, don’t any of you get the joke here? The judge was being funny.

It also has nothing to do with size.

From your link:

I don’t see the joke, and what you posted is about something completely different.

Yes, the old adage: The bigger they are, the harder they hit.

You don’t understand that the judge is referring to this in his opinion? Really?

I didn’t google and find the opinion text. I just looked at your not-relevant link.
So, no.
Why don’t you enlighten us?

Isn’t there a rule known casually as the Eggshell Skull rule that seems to apply? If he had been obese or of normal weight doesn’t matter, only that the sidewalk was defective. Or am I misconstruing that rule?

Well yes, but:
1.such damages were not reasonably foreseeable, or
2.the tortfeasor did not intend to cause such a severe injury.

I believe Chuck is referring to the phrase 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall."

That is commonly meant to mean that the more powerful or ‘big’ a person is, the harder or more dramatic it is for them to fail or ‘fall’.

The judge may(?) have been making a pun by taking this figurative language and applying it to the literal fall of a big person.

The result may result in humour (or not, in your case).

Well yes. But that is not a joke on the judge’s part. Do you understand that bit? You do get what a “joke” is, right? The bit I quoted in my post? Complicated I know. Hang in there.

And I think that anyone with half a clue gets the colloquial meaning. Which I alluded to in my earlier post. In case you missed it, post number 10.

I submit as evidence the cited Garbutt v Schechter.

The judge was merely quoting his cite, not attempting humor.

I know no humor was intended, but the thing is, and I should have mentioned it before, but this is an actual ruling – a finding of fact in the case. That’s why I’m asking if the physics is correct.