Kreindler & Kreindler is dedicated to protecting those injured by negligent property owners.
Premises liability accidents can often be prevented, especially in crumbling, older building facade collapses. City records frequently indicate that a building owner has been cited for “failure to maintain exterior building facade” prior to or after a serious incident. Older fire escapes - ubiquitous throughout larger cities with older buildings - are often neglected and failing due to obvious corrosion. Bricks, crown molding, and molded ornaments need to be inspected and maintained to prevent adhesive deterioration and failure resulting in their fall off a building onto pedestrians below.
Kreindler attorney Andrew “Duke” Maloney currently represents the surviving family of a Long Island man who was killed by a stair tread that broke off a fire escape in 2018. The bolts supporting the stair were corroded and it fell seven stories and hit him in the head while he was walking on a Manhattan sidewalk. The rusting fire escape had been painted over by the building owner and its contractors as a cost-saving measure in order to hide the rusting metal and decay. They previously submitted a report to the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) claiming that the fire escape was safe for the next 5 years, when it failed less than three years later while one their contractors was walking on the fire escape with no protective scaffolding below. The city correctly issued a violation to the owner, but with only a paltry fine.
Days, weeks, and months went by with no corrective work being performed. Worse still, no scaffold or sidewalk shed was installed to protect pedestrians until the danger was resolved.
A 2018 article in the Atlantic by writer Pippa Biddle mentioned this case among others in a piece about 19th century and early 20th-century fire escapes. Biddle notes, “fire escapes, initially invented to save people from danger, have become the cause of new peril.”
Kreindler partner Anthony Tarricone is prosecuting a similar case in Boston, MA in which a crumbling piece of a building facade fell upon a young pedestrian from New York, while she vacationed late last year. That case is known as The Common Ground Façade Collapse and has many similarities to a recent midtown Manhattan tragedy. According to Mr. Tarricone:
The Boston case involves the building parapet that hangs over a public sidewalk. Its unchecked decay was a public nuisance and the building was in deadly condition at the time of the incident.
Premises Liability Suit Potential Causes
Structural engineers cite deterioration over the years for weakening facades of old buildings. The combination of trapped moisture and expansion from freeze-thaw cycles further decay building facades, which can then trigger debris to fall and fire escapes to rust. The lack of proper periodic inspections, maintenance and repair constitute negligent conduct that results in liability for the building owner and contractors.
Lack of Mandatory Inspections
One of the engineers and author of the Allston Common Ground collapse report, Bob Freel, told the Globe that he believes low-rise buildings should be inspected regularly to avoid these types of accidents. In addition, Michael Peterman, an architect and a co-chair of the international materials organization ASTM’s (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials) facade inspection task group, believes that all cities should require periodic facade inspections for low-rise buildings as well high rise buildings.
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Additional Unexpected Facade Collapses
Facade collapses are becoming more common. The front of a 115-year-old building toppled over in downtown Russellville, Alabama, barely missing the building owner and a small child. In August 2018, bricks from the front wall of an art gallery in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood crumbled onto the sidewalk and into the street, causing traffic to be rerouted. And tragically, in 2015, a 2-year-old girl died after she and her grandmother were crushed beneath stone and debris when an eighth-floor window ledge fell from a Manhattan building.
Facades in the northeastern United States may be more susceptible to unexpected collapses because of the combination of the age of the buildings and the rain-freeze-thaw cycle of the climate, both of which can accelerate the deterioration.
Many cities around the country, require buildings over a specific height to undergo regular facade inspections. As of now, however, inspections are typically not mandatory for low-rise structures. One of our active cases involves a couple injured in the Common Ground building collapse in Allston. “The obligation to maintain the buildings falls on the owner,” Quincy Building Commissioner Jay Duca told The Boston Herald. “There’s no inspection of a parapet unless they’re doing work on it or on the roof.”
According to facadeordinance.com, in many cities only buildings taller than 70 feet or those deemed a high-rise structure require inspection. Inspections of building facades on structures up to 125 feet can be “performed visually with the aid of binoculars or other equipment or from adjacent structures, etc. Facades higher than 125 feet above grade shall include a close-range visual inspection consisting of at least one drop per facade. Inspection of an occupied structure is required at least once every five years and once per year for unoccupied structures. Inspection reports are required to be written by a registered architect or engineer.”
Of course these are minimum standards and should be only the starting point for what constitutes reasonable care under the circumstances. With the increase of façade and fire escape collapses, it would be in the best interest of cities to begin requiring more frequent inspections on the exteriors of older buildings of all heights.
Kreindler Attorneys Investigate the Causes
Kreindler attorneys are dedicated to investigating the cause of structural collapses (such as fire escapes, building facades, ornamental moldings, interior ceilings, signage, and trees) that cause serious injury or death and will fight for justice to hold responsible parties accountable. Kreindler is one of the most highly regarded personal injury law firms in the country concerning complex wrongful death claims.
We Know Premises Liability Law, but We Also Know This Is Your Life
Our attorneys and partners have litigated numerous premises liability cases in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and elsewhere. Having helped so many others, we really do understand the impact of something like this. You’ll always find us to be respectful, compassionate, and responsive to any concerns. And remember, you’ll never pay attorney fees unless and until you receive a monetary award.
Referring Counsel: Let’s Discuss Your Client’s Case
Kreindler regularly partners with attorneys who already have a relationship with the victim or their family. If there is an award we share our fee while allowing referring attorneys to be as involved as is appropriate.
Lawyers unfamiliar with the complex challenges of premises liability law may miss key issues, and therefore opportunities to secure and maximize compensation. We have the resources to dig deep and challenge even large international companies in court.
Kreindler Attorneys Here to Answer Your Questions
Having helped so many others, we really do understand the impact a premises liability injury can have on your family and your life. Sadly, what has been done cannot be undone. However, we are here to help you achieve a sense of closure, justice, and financial security to help you move on following a tragedy.
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