Cross & Smith LLC


Airport Premises Liability Lawsuit a Reminder of Injury Risks

Oct 2, 2013 - Birmingham, Premises Liability, Tuscaloosa by

It’s been six months since a huge sign at the Birmingham International Airport came crashing down, killing a 10-year-old boy and severely injuring his mother and younger brothers.
Our Birmingham premises liability lawyers know three other signs just like it were removed. We know, based on an investigation by, that there were advance warnings that the signs could pose a safety threat. And we also know that the family of the boy has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, that is slated to proceed in November of next year.

What we don’t know is how much safer we are in the airport.

The huge sign toppled in March, on a family that had been traveling back to Missouri from a trip to Florida for Spring Break. For months prior to that, the terminal had been undergoing extensive renovation as part of a $200 million project to upgrade airport security to meet post-91 security standards, as well as provide enhanced conveniences for travelers. The terminal had re-opened to the public just days before the fatal sign collapse.

The sign was part of a free-standing display, the vision of which had evolved significantly over the course of two years. In the first design renderings of the display, the sign was much broader at the base and lighter at the front. Engineers and architects had all given the Ok to the changing shape of the display board, though it was noted that the stability was progressively weakened as the designs moved toward a narrower base and heavier front.

As the 10-foot sign was being installed, more than one contractor noted unease with regard to the safety of the sign, as it did not appear to be stable, even as it was being installed back in January of this year.

Even after the collapse, the same engineering and architecture firm that had approved those safety plans continue to work on the ongoing terminal renovations. They updated plans to secure those same display features by bolting them to the walls and attaching metal rods that would extend to the floor to keep them in place. An internal note characterizes the changes as “minor.”

Of course, those changes come too late for the victims.

The airport has said it is continuing to investigate the incident. Potentially liable parties include the contractors who managed the modernization project, the architectural firm, the engineering firm and numerous construction companies.

The airport itself is not named as a defendant, as Alabama state law grants airport authorities immunities from negligence lawsuits. Still, airport officials have refused to say whether there were any plans to replace the large, ground-based displays with ones of a different design or if the accident had resulted in any other construction alterations that might improve safety.

As the filing indicates, the defendants knew or should have known that the design was flawed and the modifications to it over the course of those two years were improper. They should have realized that the failure to secure or anchor the free-standing signs would result in stability issues, which presented a foreseeable risk of potentially fatal danger to the public.

Injuries and even deaths stemming from negligence of Alabama property owners is unfortunately all too common. Some examples of what we would consider to be more regular occurrences include:

  • Wet or slippery floors;
  • A failure of landlords to provide safe common areas;
  • Elevator and escalator hazards;
  • Hazardous material exposure;
  • Broken or unmarked stairs;
  • Inadequate security resulting in an injury from a criminal act;
  • Improper lighting;
  • Dangerously stacked store products;
  • Sidewalks that are broken or cracked;
  • Dog bites.

Additional Resources:

Six months after fatal Birmingham airport sign collapse, terminal work continues, trial date set, Sept. 20, 2013, By Mike D. Smith,

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