When balconies or decks collapse, the consequences can be horrific. In Berkeley in California the collapse of a balcony at an apartment complex killed five people and injured eight early Tuesday.
It was the most serious of a number of such incidents in recent years. The Los Angeles Times reported a party was underway the fourth-floor unit about 12:41 a.m. when the collapse took place. As many as 13 people may have been on the balcony when it fell.
The apartment complex is popular with UC students and visitors. Photos on social media, showed debris on the sidewalk where the balcony fell. A portion of the collapsed balcony was resting atop the balcony directly below it.
My thoughts are with the families of those who died. The tragedy has parallels with a second-floor balcony collapse at the University of Virginia in 1997.
The balcony was filled with people seeking a view of the University of Virginia’s graduation ceremony. The collapse of the balcony at a 175-year-old faculty residence building, designed by Thomas Jefferson, killed one person and injured 18. Those on the balcony fell about 15 feet. Many of the injured were on a walkway beneath the balcony.
The incident led to about 20 claims against the Commonwealth of Virginia, 13 of which were settled for a total of $601,500, with the average amount being about $45,000 per claim.
While balcony and deck collapses are still relatively rare, there is evidence that they are becoming more frequent. In a recent article civil engineer J. David Gardner wrote that more than 6,000 people suffer injuries every year in incidents involving the structural failure or collapse of a deck or porch. The information is based data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
These cases often reveal construction and construction flaws and shortcuts, as well as a lack of the requisite inspection and permit. Older decks are now reaching the age when collapse is more likely. Last year two dozen family members were injured in a deck collapse in New Albany, Indiana. Family members sued the builders of the deck claiming they neglected their responsibility to maintain and inspect its condition. They also posted a YouTube video of the collapse.
The law of premises liability comes into play in these cases. In Virginia, a landlord only has a duty to maintain in a reasonably safe condition parts of a leased property that are reserved for the common use of tenants. However, a property owner has a duty to keep a balcony or a deck used by visitors in a property such as a hotel, a store or a restaurant in a safe condition. See our Virginia Personal injury lawyers’ article about the dangers of deck collapses.
Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers is the author of Top 10 Tips if You Are Injured at a Store, Hotel or Restaurant in Virginia, which can be ordered on our website. Call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 757.455.0077.