You do not need to be in a boat or on a ship to be in danger on a deck. Decks attached to structures can be dangerous places if they are poorly constructed or maintained. Most of us can recall at least one news story about people injured or killed when
decks were overloaded or unsafe.
Two recent cases discussed in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly bring focus to a common area of premises liability law. In one case, a resident of a multi-unit property stepped onto a second-story deck, which immediately collapsed. In the second case, a man leaned on the railing of a deck and fell 12 feet onto concrete when the railing gave way. Each of these cases resulted in financial settlements of $900,000 or more.
In one case, the property owner’s agent said, “It was really just guys that was down there, around there,” she said. “If somebody told me this guy did this or that that guy did that, I let them do the job, because to me, those places were like trash. So I just had anybody do it.” This is a clear admission of negligence.
Intentional negligence aside, it is easy for property owners to overlook above-ground decks when attending to routine matters of maintenance of structural integrity and safety. The beginning of a new year is a good time to protect your premises with an inspection of your decks and making any recommended repairs. It is also a good time to know and/or post the number of people your deck can safely support.
Deck maintenance is not just about protection from a premises liability case. It is always about protecting your family, your tenants and visitors from danger. Safety should always be the primary concern.