Improperly Maintained, Designed, or Constructed Decks, Terraces or Balconies
Falls from defective and/or hazardous balconies, decks and terraces are serious, and unfortunately, can result in life threatening injuries. A story of a Maine woman who fell from a deck a few years back demonstrates just how dangerous they can be. Catherine Sodini, an 18 year old student at the University of Maine at Orono, went out to dinner with friends on the evening of December 26, 2009. Afterwards, she stopped by a friend’s apartment to bid farewell to a friend who was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan. As Sodini was just about to leave, the deck beneath her gave way. Those who were with Sodini reported hearing an ominous cracking sound moments before the deck tumbled from the second story apartment, hit a pickup truck, and flipped upside down.
Chaos erupted and several people were trapped between the deck and the railing while waiting for help to arrive. Three men and two women, one of which was Sodini, were seriously injured in the fall. Sodini suffered extensive injuries, including fractures to her eye sockets, check bones, nose, a laceration to the spleen, and severe head trauma. She is unable to remember the accident and will likely be permanently affected by it.
Investigators to the accident unveiled some disturbing information. The city code enforcement office found the deck to be defectively built, and city records revealed that none of the required building permits were ever sought. Officials believed the deck to have been improperly anchored to the building and charges will ensue.Holding Negligent Property Owners Accountable for Balcony Falls
As in the case of Catherine Sodini, balcony, terrace, and deck falls are often due to the negligence of the property owner. Property owners in Maine have a responsibility to maintain safe property conditions under premises liability laws. This includes ensuring balconies and terraces comply with building codes and are in safe condition. Balcony safety is of particular importance in apartment complexes, hotels, and high rises, due to the inherent risks of falling from these heights. When a balcony fall occurs, the property owner may be liable for the damages that ensue.
Some negligent conditions that can lead to balcony, deck, or terrace falls include:
- Design or structural defects, including improper anchoring and railings of deficient height or spaced too far apart
- Exceeding the maximum weight limit or miscalculation of maximum weight limits
- Failure to warn guests or customers of the weight limits
- Building code violations
- Weak support beams or railings
- Failure to maintain balconies in safe condition, including failing to mend rusted bolts, loose railings, and rotted wood
- Deterioration of foundation
Balcony, deck, and terrace safety is absolutely vital for property owners and managers, as these falls can result in a host of serious injuries, including traumatic brain injury, broken limbs, injuries to internal organs, and spinal cord damage, along with cuts, lacerations, and disfigurement. Premises liability suits for injuries sustained in balcony falls can result in the award of compensatory damages for medical expenses, lost wages, disfigurement, disability, and pain and suffering. In some cases, the court may award punitive damages.Peter Thompson & Associates: Premises Liability Lawyers of Unmatched Excellence
The Maine law firm of Peter Thompson & Associates has decades of experience handling cases involving injuries due to defective or hazardous balconies, terraces, and decks. Our skilled premises liability attorneys use leading experts in the fields of building codes and property maintenance to determine whether a fall was the result of negligence. Our meticulous investigation and research often leads to favorable settlements with the insurer. For legal services of the highest quality, call Peter Thompson & Associates today at 1 800.804.2004. We offer three convenient office locations in Portland, Falmouth, and Bangor. Don’t wait, contact us now to learn more about how we can help you!