One Million Dollar Result For Fall Through Dangerous Skylight Near Sidewalk

THE DANGERS OF SKYLIGHTS: One Million Dollar Result For Fall Through Dangerous Skylight Near Sidewalk

             In late 2013 we settled a case for our client for $1,000,000.00 shortly prior to trial.  The settlement offer prior to a mediation meeting was only $100,000.00.  The case involved a 20 foot fall through a ground level un-barricaded skylight immediately adjacent to the Defendant’s building and adjacent to the sidewalk on Laclede’s Landing in the City of St. Louis, Missouri.  The plaintiff was attending a bachelor party in St. Louis when he walked upon the skylight thinking it was iron or some other covering that is commonly seen on city streets and highways.  It was not barricaded and there were no warnings that it  was unsafe for human traffic.  The incident occurred at night and the street lighting of this area was not very good.

simonSkylights in general are not designed to hold human weight, although some are designed to do so.  These specific skylights, which consist of Plexiglas supported in an aluminum  and wooden frame, were not designed to be walked upon by people.  The skylights were constructed without any engineering  design whatsoever.  The skylights did not conform to industry regulations and standards.  The condition did not comply with the Code for the City of St. Louis and various building codes incorporated by the City of St. Louis.  We found that the International Property Maintenance Code (incorporated into St. Louis city codes) and Chapter 25.01 of the City of St. Louis Code were both applicable and violated.  By alleging these violations of code plaintiff would be relieved of proving negligence.  If certain codes are violated by property owners then they are responsible for the damages caused by these conditions on their property.   This is called negligence per se.

These skylights were dangerous because the skylights were adjacent to the sidewalk. The skylights were originally clear but were never cleaned.  The skylights were so dirty that it appeared to a pedestrian that these were iron or some type of metal that was part of the walkway.    Further, the area was unguarded by either cages, covering or guardrails.

Our expert testified that the skylights in issue are insidious because they appear to be steel panels in an area appearing to be a continuation of the walkway surface.  Further, the area was dark at the time of the accident and Plaintiff was unfamiliar with the surroundings.

The owner of the building should have been aware that the skylights were not properly designed or maintained to support people, especially, considering the fact that he was an owner of a construction company.  He claimed that he once walked on the skylights.  He thought the skylight safe.  These statements flew in the face of their defense that alcohol was involved and caused the plaintiff to do something reckless such as walking on skylights.  Their own physician expert testified it was reckless to walk upon the skylights as these appeared that night.  Her testimony that the skylights were safe as no one sober would walk on these flew in the face of any desire to protect our sight impaired population.  It is certainly foreseeable that the visually impaired share our streets and sidewalks with us.

The section of the skylight that failed had a circular section cut out of one corner to accommodate the gutter pipe that passed through the skylight.  This cutout essentially created a weakness or a stress riser in the area which led to this particular panel’s failure.  By stepping on the very middle of this panel the plaintiff caused the edge to retract just enough to cause the skylight to come away from the frame.

At one time in the past, there was a rail barricading one side and a planter with bushes surrounding the rest of the skylights.  These barricades were removed by a past owner.   This was evidenced by two holes in the cobblestone, where the barricade was located.  The owner testified that the bushes weren’t watered and died.  These changes altered the entire layout that was designed to discourage people from walking on the skylights.  But quite frankly, bushes and a partial rail were plainly not enough.

The client was diagnosed as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as he fell 20 feet and sustained a serious lower extremity injury and was stuck in the hole for a long time while first responders arrived and extrication took a long time as well.  He sustained the following injuries:  Right Calcaneus Fracture, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

His medical bills were about $67,000.00.

Commentary:  In this case the unguarded skylight was in a dangerous location where anyone could wander upon it at night time without realizing they were walking upon a skylight.  It was the next step from the pedestrian sidewalk.  Normally cases skylight cases involve an accidental fall through the skylight which was not build to handle weight and was not guarded by rails.   There are many codes and workplace regulations relating to skylights as these types of accidents are known to occur.  If you or a loved one was injured or died as a result of an incident involving a skylight we will review your case at our expense without any charge.  Please contact us right away so that evidence can be preserved.







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