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Student Crushed by Falling Building Column: Premises Liability

How can a student be crushed by a falling building column at a public university in Virginia? In this premises liability case, a female student tied a hammock to two concrete building columns in an open area on the campus of a public university. One of the concrete columns, weighing some 800 pounds, fell on her, and crushed her pelvis and abdomen.Student Crushed by Falling Building Column: Premises Liability - Altizer Law PC


Several years prior to this incident two people were hurt when a similar concrete column in the same place fell on them. In the interim, the university did nothing to mitigate the danger of column collapse or to warn students and the public of the danger. The university’s response was to remove the column that fell in the previous incident. This effectively masked the danger and masked the risk of a column falling.

FOIA responses showed that email was exchanged by employees of the university regarding the danger of the situation. However, no action was taken by the university to ensure that another column collapse would not occur.

Plaintiff’s Injuries and Recovery

The student (plaintiff) was airlifted to the nearest major trauma center. Several surgical procedures were performed to repair her “bilateral open-book pelvic fracture” and tears and hemorrhage to her colon and omentum. An acetabular fracture was also surgically repaired. With a total of 19 surgical procedures, the plaintiff’s recovery was extensive and difficult. Treatment also applied to conditions developed by the plaintiff during the healing process and to a later removal of a pelvic stabilizer.

The numerous surgical procedures caused extensive scarring to the plaintiff’s abdomen, pelvic area, legs, and hips. There was also a large scar extending from the sternum to the navel, which was removed by the incision and the resulting scar.

The plaintiff endures long-term pain in her hips and back. She was, however, back to many of her normal activities at the mark of 12 months after the incident.


Plaintiff’s attorney and the office of the Attorney General agreed to a mediation approach in order to avoid the expense and uncertainty of a court trial and to avoid filing suit against the university and several individuals working for the university. The mediation included the university’s attorney, and a litigation attorney from the Attorney General’s office. During mediation, both the plaintiff and her mother offered statements and insights regarding the personal impacts of the injuries and the extensive recovery from the injuries.

A Life Care Plan was developed, which established future damages to be more than $165,000. Mediation resulted in a settlement to the plaintiff for $1,600,000.00. The agreement involved no admission of wrongdoing.


Poorly maintained or defectively built structures are the cause of many injuries every year. When there is a history of a previous failure, and the owner of the premises did not properly mitigate the cause of the incident, those injured often have a clear basis for filing a premises liability lawsuit. If you or a loved one has been injured due to improperly maintained premises, and through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to recover damages from the owner of the premises.

The first step after such an injury is to consult an experienced premises liability attorney to discuss the events, the injuries, and the potential liabilities for the hurts and harms. Bettina Altizer has been helping people injured in faulty structures for more than 25 years. She and her team of experienced professionals  at Altizer Law, P.C., will help you to assess the incident and to build a legal case if appropriate.