A verdict in excess of $38 million dollars was rendered in favor of a victim who slipped and fell from the balcony of a motel after it was alleged that the railings were too short. The 25-year old victim was taken to a hospital and his blood alcohol content after the fall was more than three times the legal limit to drive. After awaking from a coma, the victim had no memory of how he came to be lying on the ground.
Allegations were made that the victim fell from a second floor hotel balcony railing which was below the legal height limit by 8 inches. A difficult case existed due to the fact there were no witnesses and it was necessary to prove by circumstantial evidence including bio-mechanical evidence that the only way the victim could have suffered the injuries was by virtue of falling over the balcony. Allegations were also made that defendant failed to preserve any surveillance videos of the scene and suppressed evidence.
Of course, the defense strongly contended that the fall was due to the victim’s admitted intoxication and that the victim did not fall from the balcony therefore ruling out the possibility of code violations causing his injury.
There have been a growing number of incidents involving individuals falling from balconies at popular hotels, motels, and holiday resorts particularly over the holidays when people have a tendency to drink more frequently while on vacation.
As an experienced hotel accident and premise liability lawyer who has litigated premise liability and balcony fall cases for the last three decades, I am well aware that many hotel balconies fail to meet building codes and minimal safety guidelines set for balconies. Many hotels built before the 1990’s are grandfathered into older safety requirements and have lower rails posing a danger for guests. Unfortunately the number of individuals falling to their deaths from hotel balconies continues to increase each year in the United States and many hotels are now taking greater steps to make their balconies safer by adding plexiglass enclosures to protect their guests, particularly small children.
International building codes require hotel balcony railings to be at least 42 inches high and each rail or post should be no further than 4 inches apart. The balcony must also be built with materials strong enough to withstand a strong load which means that they should not be flexible or able to be moved if someone pushes against them.
Hotel owners owe their guests the highest duty of care and are responsible for maintaining their property in such a condition that no unsafe condition in their hotel can lead to a slip and fall accident or balcony fall.
Obviously during the holidays when the weather is warm, the balcony is likely to become a gathering spot for friends and guests and most likely many times it goes without saying that people may have had a drink or two.
Many existing decks and balconies are the scenes of accidents waiting to happen. A railing collapse and balcony fall may expose the owners of the premise to liability on the basis of negligence, premise liability law, product liability, and construction law. Individuals have a right to expect that when they step on a porch, deck, or balcony, it is safe to support their weight and that the railing and guard system is safe as well.
Every holiday season, we learn of individuals who sustained a catastrophic injury or wrongful death due to a balcony railing collapse or material failure. Hotels and motels should maintain a regular inspection and maintenance program and owe their business invitee guests the duty to make sure the premise is safe and that balconies and railings are installed and maintained in accordance with appropriate codes to ensure their safety.
The experienced balcony fall and defective balcony lawyers of Reiff and Bily have had a significant experience with a successful track record representing those who were injured as a result of porch collapse, balcony collapse, and railing failures. We always offer a free no obligation consultation and promise that we will never charge a fee unless we make a successful recovery on your behalf.