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Birmingham Child Balcony Fall Results in Serious Injury

Feb 20, 2014 - Premises Liability by

A 7-year-old boy was in critical condition following a 5-story fall from a balcony in Birmingham.
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Authorities are still investigating what factors may have played a part in the fall. A Birmingham premises liability lawsuit could be a possibility depending on the particular facts of the case. Individual homeowners may also be liable in certain situations.

Unfortunately, balcony falls are all too common, often resulting in critical injuries, or even death. Recent balcony falls since the beginning of the year include:

  • A 19-year-old Penn State College student was injured in late January after falling about 16 feet from a second-floor balcony apartment. Authorities suspected alcohol may have been involved, but noted it was the seventh time since October 2012 that a student had suffered a balcony fall. Three of those incidents were fatal.
  • A Wisconsin man fell from a third-floor balcony in late January and was declared dead at the scene. Officials are continuing to investigate.
  • In early February, a 43-year-old man in Georgia was seriously injured after falling three stories from a mall balcony.

While incidents involving suicide or self-harm attempts may not be compensable, the reality is that property owners – from hotels to landlords to malls – have a duty to maintain a safe space for guests. Too often, they don’t, and failure to maintain balcony railings is one of the most egregious oversights.

The fact that an individual had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the fall might result in a finding of some degree of comparable negligence, but it wouldn’t excuse the property owner from a duty of care owned to maintain a safe balcony space.

Balcony falls that don’t end in death could result in spinal cord damage, brain injury, broken bones, dislocated joints, paraplegia and quadriplegia. Recovery from these kinds of injuries often requires that the injured party (or their parents) must take extensive time off work for medical procedures and rehabilitation. In some cases, disabilities may be permanent, resulting in a loss of earnings capacity.

Recently in Iowa, two parents were awarded $1.75 million following their daughter’s fatal fall from an apartment building. However, a judge later vacated that verdict and ordered a new trial, a ruling the parents are appealing.

According to news reports of that case, the 21-year-old woman fell from a second-story balcony in the summer of 2011. A housing inspector had testified that the apartment building’s railings, at 32 inches, were not up to current building code standards, which required them to be a height of 42 inches. However, the housing appeals board had given the property owner until October 2011 to bring the railings in line with current code. Before that happened, this young woman was killed.

Porch and balcony defects can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Building code violations;
  • Design defects;
  • Excessive weight;
  • Rotten wood;
  • Weak supports;
  • Rusty nails or fasteners.

Additional Resources:

Boy, 7, rushed to hospital after reportedly falling from 5th-floor balcony of Birmingham condo, Jan. 24, 2014, By Ben Culpepper, ABC-3340

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