From Virginia Lawyers Weekly (September 28, 2015)
Two recent Virginia deck failure cases each resulted in recovery of nearly all of the property owners’ available $1 million policy limits.
In the most recent report, a Petersburg man collected $950,000 for severe injuries suffered when he stepped onto a second-story deck that promptly collapsed. The owner’s agent allegedly regarded the rental property as “like trash,” so she hired anybody available to do repairs.
A Lynchburg man’s death produced a $900,000 settlement in August, reported in the Sept. 7 edition of Virginia Lawyers Weekly. The victim had leaned against a railing that gave way, causing him to fall 12 feet onto concrete.
The two cases, and others reported over the past 16 years, highlight the dangers of poorly constructed and poorly maintained decks and porches.
“It’s a prevalent problem,” said Jay Tronfeld of Richmond, who, along with Wiley J. Latham IV, represented the victim in the Petersburg case.
When decks fall or railings detach, very serious injuries are common, Tronfeld said.
“They’re dangerous. You’re falling from a height sufficient to cause significant problems,” he said.
The Petersburg victim leased an apartment in a five-unit property. A common hallway allowed access to a small deck on the back.
When the renter ventured onto the deck for the first time, it immediately collapsed. The fall broke three bones in his right ankle, requiring emergency surgery.
Doctors gave the victim a 20 percent disability rating and predicted the need for future surgery. Medical bills were $154,220.81 with estimated future medical expenses of $15,000 to $26,000.
The man lost wages of $27,765.60 with future lost earning capacity of $333,000, Tronfeld reported.
The victim also reported effects of a concussion.