While the guest of a resident of an apartment building, a woman fell down an unmarked shaft and landed in a pike position. Her injuries resulted in partial paralysis. The injuries included seven spinal fractures, four pelvic fractures, at least eight fractured ribs, and a scapula fracture. She also sustained a number of vascular and soft tissue injuries.
The plaintiff (injured woman) and a companion opened an unlocked closet door. They stepped over a railing that was 36-inches. This enabled them to stand on a platform. They did not know that there was a two-foot square opening of a shaft in the corner. The shaft extended the full height of the building.
When turning to exit the closet, the plaintiff tripped on the corner lip of the platform. Tripping caused her to fall into the shaft. The fall sent her five stories down to the second-floor opening, landing in a pike position. The fall caused a number of very serious injuries, many of which were permanent. In particular, a thoracic spinal cord injury resulted in partial paralysis.
The plaintiff’s demand for punitive damages was based on the following claims:
- That the railing violated the building code requirement for a 42-inch railing.
- That the closed doors should have been locked.
- That specific warning signs should have been posted on the closet.
- Because the defendants had been cited by the fire marshal previously for the same hazard, she argued that the defendants were guilty of “willful and wanton” conduct in this regard.
The defense response included the following points:
- That the plaintiff exceeded the extent of her invitation to the building, and thereby became a trespasser.
- That the plaintiff was contributorily negligent.
- That the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury when she stepped over the railing and into the closet.
- That the plaintiff had a blood alcohol level that they claimed exceeded .1 BAC.
The court’s actions and decisions in response were:
- The court overruled the defendant’s demurrer.
- The court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
- The court ruled on a variety of the parties’ pre-trial motions.
- The court excluded the defendant’s toxicologist for failing to accurately distinguish between blood alcohol and serum alcohol levels.
After an unsuccessful attempt to mediate the case initially, the case settled the day before the scheduled beginning of a trial. The settlement totaled $6.5 million, including $2,052,701 for medical expenses incurred, $1,669,027 for a life care plan, and $40,877 for lost wages.
If you or a loved one is injured due to an unmarked hazard and through no fault of your own, call Altizer Law, P.C. In more than 25 years of helping clients recover financial compensation for their hurts and harms, Bettina Altizer and her team have become a legal team trusted by members of the community to provide outstanding legal representation and to fight for the highest possible financial compensation – because it is about the money. If you are injured, call Altizer Law, P.C., today.