Firm Collects $195,000 for a Woman Who Fell Down Three Steps
This was a particularly satisfying case for us because we were successfully able to sue our client’s landlord and the contractor for a defective condition on a rental property. We had argued that the defective conditions of the steps led to our client’s fall and her badly fractured right ankle. The fracture was so severe that it required two separate surgeries and a steel plate with nine screws to repair her ankle.
We were ultimately able to convince the court that the steps leading out to the backyard of our client’s rented home were defective and not up to code. The steps at issue were installed without a proper landing and, when the concrete paver patio was installed, the last riser on the steps was shortened to facilitate an easy installation of the patio.
To ensure that our potential jury had no doubt about the defective condition of the steps, we hired a licensed code official and licensed New Jersey Professional Engineer to offer an expert opinion. After an inspection of the site and an interview with the client, our expert was able to determine that the combination of a lack of top stair landing and irregular riser height and tread width caused a break in the natural stepping stride of the client, a condition which caused her tragic fall down the steps. Our expert referenced the applicable codes requiring riser uniformity and a landing. The building code is an important requirement because of its universally-recognized intent to prevent serious interruptions in the cadence and rhythm of a person descending a set of stairs.
After receiving the report of our expert, the defendants did not dispute that the steps, as constructed, violated the applicable building codes. Instead, the landlord and contractor sought the dismissal of a lawsuit by alleging that our client knew of the defective condition of the steps yet went down them anyway. They also argued the defective condition did not cause our client to fall. The defendants further argued the case should have been dismissed because the client failed to notify the landlord of the defective condition. We countered that our client could not have known about the potential risk and the defective condition of the steps simply by looking at them. Furthermore, the building code requires a landing and riser regularity precisely to protect lay people who are unaware of the dangers caused by these conditions.
The court sided with the injured victim and both the landlord’s application and the contractor’s application to be dismissed form the case were denied. This meant that both the landlord and the contractor would not be able to avoid a jury determination of their liability and seriousness of our client’s injuries.
As we noted above, our client had a compound fracture of her right ankle which required her to be rushed to the emergency room. She endured two surgeries and the instillation of extensive hardware in her ankle to repair the break. As a result of the fall, she was unable to work and had to undergo extensive and painful therapy to learn how to walk again. We were able to demonstrate to the landlord and the contractor that not only were the injuries severe, but also how the impact upon our client’s daily life was equally dramatic. With a compound ankle fracture, she was forced remain on the first floor of her home and was prevented from doing basic tasks of everyday living including walking to the mailbox, doing laundry on the second floor, and driving to her doctor’s appointments.
Given the defective condition of the steps created by the landlord and the contractor, the undeniable injury and its impact on our clients life, the defendants’ and their insurance companies decided to settle the case rather than face a jury. Ultimately, the case settled for $195,000.00.
If your loved one has been injured due to a defective building condition or a failure to maintain a property, please contact the personal injury lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele online today. As a DeMichele & DeMichele personal injury client, you will never pay a fee unless we recover for you. The initial consultation is confidential and free; call (856) 546-1350 to speak with one of our personal injury attorneys.
Note: The outcome of every personal injury case is fact specific. Your particular case results will vary depending on a wide range of legal and issues and factors. The facts of your case may not apply to or relate to the results of the case described above.