Client Stories: A Three-Year-Old Falls from a Third-Story Balcony

By Michael GrossmanFebruary 27, 2014Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the more than 25 years that we've been practicing law, we've seen time and time again how unwilling people and businesses can be to take responsibility when it comes to causing an accident in which people were hurt, regardless of who those people are.

A few years ago, we were contacted by a mother after her three-year-old son fell off the third-story balcony of an apartment complex. The mother and her son were leaving the apartment, and when the mother turned around to lock the door, her son slipped through the balcony railing, falling to the ground below. Luckily, he survived the fall, but not without suffering some big injuries.

We took on the woman's case and got out to the apartment complex immediately after being hired. Experience has taught us that whenever accidents like this happen, apartment complexes will work as quickly as they can to cover up any wrongdoing. And sure enough, that's exactly what they were trying to do.

At the complex we found that the spacing of the balcony railings was not up to code, which allowed the woman's child to effortlessly slip between them. We only had a short time to document this, as the management company at the complex had already brought in people to make repairs. They were even painting over the job they had done to make it seem as if no problem had ever existed.

When we brought all of this to the attention of the complex, they first argued that there was in fact no case, and that what had happened to the child was completely the mother's fault. We showed them that the railings weren't up to code, at which the complex shrugged its shoulders, and told us that they weren't required to keep their premises up to code. They claimed that whenever safety regulations changed, their out-of-spec safety features were grandfathered in. They wanted us to believe that they had basically been given a free pass to keep their complex in whatever condition they saw fit. That's not how the law works.

This was an accident in which the mother bore no responsibility. She thought the railing was safe, and so never thought to keep her child away from it. And now her apartment complex was telling her that not only were the premises unsafe, but they had a legal right to keep them so (keep in mind that this was AFTER blaming the mother). Aside from being flagrantly false, this showed an incredible disregard on the complex's part for the safety of one of its own residents.

In cases like this, you have to fight fire with fire. You have to let the defendant know that if your case ever went to court, there would be no doubt that you would win. And not only win, but take them to the cleaners. We brought in an expert on building codes who testified that an apartment building always has to be in compliance with safety standards. This wasn't a choice they were free to make. There was no such thing as being grandfathered in.

Ultimately our arguments prevailed and we won the case.

It's never fun to see innocent people being taken advantage of, especially when there's very little these people can do to fight back. And there are times in which the people you're fighting against put up a hell of a fight. Winning this one, and helping this woman find justice for her son, are why we've been doing this for more than 25 years.