Illinois Premises Liability for Balcony Collapses
In Illinois, property owners, landlords, and contractors may be liable for the personal injuries sustained when a balcony suddenly collapses due to negligent design or improper maintenance.
Deck, porch, and balcony collapses can be catastrophic, often resulting in serious injuries and death. Contractors and builders have a duty to strictly follow building codes. Landlords, property owners, and building managers have a heightened duty to ensure their decks, porches, and balconies are safely built and maintained. They must adhere to building codes, maintenance schedules, and structural safety requirements, including periodic inspections. When a balcony collapse occurs, the property owner may be held liable for negligent failure to maintain a deck, porch, or balcony under a premises liability cause of action.
If you have suffered an injury or loss as a result of a deck collapse, porch collapse, or balcony collapse, contact the knowledgeable Illinois personal injury lawyers at John J. Malm & Associates. Our law firm has successfully brought claims for our clients’ serious injuries after a structural failure, and we have the legal knowledge, engineering resources, and experience to help you get the compensation you deserve.
A sudden balcony collapse or deck failure often results in serious injuries. The severity of injuries sustained in a balcony collapse often depends on the balcony’s height from the ground and the manner in which the collapse occurred. Some failure modes result in a total collapse, while other structural events cause only a portion of the deck to fail. The most common injuries sustained in a balcony collapse include:
- Broken bones
- Disc herniations
- Internal injuries
- Brain injuries
- Nerve damage
- Paraplegia and quadriplegia
With regular maintenance, a properly constructed balcony can safely last indefinitely. However, the following conditions may lead to a balcony or porch collapsing, causing serious injuries:
- Faulty construction
- Defective hardware and fasteners
- Fatigued structural support
- Lack of structural integrity
- Foundation deterioration and weak supports
- Design defects
- Overloading (excessive weight) of the structure
- Water or moisture penetrating wooden supports over a long period of time (often inside the structure, away from view
- Rotten wood (dry rot)
- Non-code conforming construction or non-permitted improvements
To successfully litigate a balcony or deck collapse case, it is imperative to have an engineer inspect the structural support system for the balcony before the property owner makes repairs or alters evidence. An engineering analysis must be performed before evidence is disturbed, destroyed, or discarded. An experienced attorney will immediately conduct a site inspection with a qualified structural engineer to photograph and document the conditions at the scene. An attorney should contact the local city inspector to obtain inspection reports for the building. An attorney will also interview witnesses, review applicable building and maintenance codes, review lease terms (if applicable), and put the property owner’s insurance company on notice.How are Balcony Collapse Lawsuits Handled?
In Illinois, defective and dangerous balcony claims arise under both negligence and breach of warranty of habitability theories. There are multiple parties that may be held liable when a balcony collapse occurs, including property owners, building managers, landlords, tenants, contractors who built and installed the balcony, manufacturers and suppliers of the balcony’s structural components, and, in some instances, local government officials. Determining which parties are liable depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the balcony collapse.
Illinois law imposes a duty of landlord and property owner to act in the exercise of reasonable caution to make sure their premises are safe. Under Illinois’ Premises Liability Act, a property owner is liable for negligence by failing to address and repair defects, and failing to warn persons on the property of the dangerous conditions. 740 ILCS 130. In order to prevail on a negligence theory in a balcony collapse case, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the balcony was dangerous, (2) the property owner knew or should have known of the balcony’s dangerous condition, and (3) that the balcony collapse caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Breach of Warranty of Habitability:
Illinois law imposes a warranty of habitability in every residential lease. Jack Spring v. Little, 50 Ill.2d 351 (1972). The implied warranty of habitability requires that a dwelling be fit for its intended use, that is, it should be habitable and fit for safely living there. The warranty of habitability requires that at inception of the lease there be no latent defect in those facilities vital to use of dwelling for residential purposes and vital to life, health, and safety of tenant and that premises will remain habitable throughout the term of the lease. Gloseoe v. Trinkle, 107 Ill.2d 1 (1985). In order to prevail on a breach of warranty of habitability theory, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the balcony was defective, (2) the property owner had knowledge of the defective condition, (3) the property owner failed to repair the defect, and (4) the defect would cause a reasonable person to consider the premises unfit, unsanitary, unhealthy, or unsafe.
- Seek medical attention in a hospital emergency room.
- Report the incident to the property owner and local property inspection department immediately.
- Avoid speaking with any insurance representatives or investigators before consulting with legal counsel.
- Consult with knowledgeable legal counsel to ensure that vital evidence is documented, photographed, and preserved for future engineering analysis.
The types and amount of damages that are legally compensable varies based on the nature and extent of the injuries in a given case. You may be entitled to:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Valuable lost time from work
- Painful disfigurement
- Loss of a normal life, and
- Pain and suffering (including past, present and future)
The knowledgeable balcony collapse lawyers at John J. Malm & Associates have successfully handled complicated structural failure cases for our clients. We are a team of experienced personal injury lawyers who represent individuals and families who have suffered an injury or loss due to an accident. You may be entitled to a substantial settlement if you have been injured. Call 630-527-4177, or 312-422-6855, and speak with Attorney John J. Malm and his team today.