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July 15, 2010

Dangerous Deck Collapses Blamed for Serious Injuries and Deaths

Over the last three months, several stories about deck collapses have made headlines nationwide. What often begins as a celebration quickly turns into terror when people are injured or killed due to a deck collapse. On the Fourth of July, a 25-year-old man from Alabama was killed and six people were injured when the deck they were celebrating on collapsed. That same day, a deck collapse in Georgia injured several adults, including one reported head injury. The list goes on and on. According to a deck injury study by the North American Deck and Railing Association, thousands of people have been injured and several have been killed due to deck collapses since 2003. The most tragic incident was in 2003 when a deck collapsed and killed 13 people and injured 57 others.

What causes a deck to collapse?

There are several reasons why a deck may collapse. Deterioration such as rotted wood, cracks, corroded hardware; missing or loose connections; and excessive weight are all contributing factors. The Home Safety Council offers information on deck inspection and safety. Regular inspection and maintenance are crucial in order to avoid injuries or even death from occurring. It may sound like common sense, but making sure a deck is securely attached to a home is crucial. A May 2010 deck collapse that injured nearly 30 students in Virginia happened because the deck was not properly attached to the home, according to investigators.

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November 5, 2009

Firemen and Police Officers Can Sue Property Owners in Florida

Prior to the enactment of Florida Statute § 112.182 in 1990, police officers and firefighters in Florida were not able to sue property owners for ordinary negligence that resulted in injury while they were on duty.  Police officers and firefighters were considered licensees upon the premises they were responding to, and the owners or occupiers of the premises only had to refrain from wanton negligence or willful conduct and were only responsible for warning of known, unseen dangers.  The justification for such a rule was that firefighters and police officers often respond to emergency situations at unexpected times and locations on the property of people in need.

However, with the enactment of Fla. Stat. § 112.182, the Florida legislature statutorily defined firefighters and police officers as invitees and effectively abolished the common law Firefighter Rule.  Under this statute, property owners owe a duty of care to firefighters and police officers lawfully on the premises to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to correct and warn of dangers the owner either knows of or should have known of with reasonable care and inspection.  This change put police officers and firefighters into the same status as any other person lawfully on the property.  See Potts v. Johnson, 654 So.2d 596 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1995).

Law Offices Cytryn & Velazquez used § Fla. Stat. 112.182 to the benefit of one of its clients early in the statute's infancy.  Our firm represented a police officer that was injured on county property while responding to an urgent call.  As he stepped out of his vehicle, the officer stepped into a drainage ditch that was inadequately marked and blocked off, and the officer suffered a broken leg.  The abolition of the Firefighter Rule in Florida levels the field for police officers and firefighters that are lawfully upon the property of another while on duty, and allows them to recover for injuries sustained do to the property owner or occupier's negligence in maintaining the property.

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October 12, 2009

Target Settles Automatic Door Injury Lawsuit for $7 Million

Target Corp., the owners of Target locations nationwide, recently settled an automatic door personal injury lawsuit filed against them by an 80-year-old customer.  According to reports, the customer claimed that Target had failed to inspect and maintain a set of automatic doors that malfunctioned and injured her.  The customer was injured after the automatic door struck her and knocked her to the ground causing her to hit her head.  She was then struck in the head again by the door when it continued to open and close while she was on the ground.  The customer also claimed that Target did not follow the safety guidelines set out by the automatic doors' manufacturer, Besam USA, who was also named in the lawsuit.  The injured party also claimed that the doors did not have a proper fail-safe system which would alarm to obstructions.

The elderly customer suffered brain injuries that prevented her from taking care of her eldest daughter with special needs.  The injured customer also claimed that she had to enter a nursing home to obtain the proper daily care after her injuries.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the second leading cause of nonfatal injuries in the United States among people 65 years of age or older in 2007 was being unintentionally struck by or crushed by a human, animal, or inanimate object other than a vehicle or machinery.

Of course, the technology behind these doors that open and close based on sensors or the push of a button is quite helpful in everyday life.  Automatic doors provide access to people carrying objects into and out of buildings, large crowds, physically challenged individuals, and have numerous other useful applications.  However, when these doors are not maintained properly or designed defectively, they can be extremely dangerous and cause serious injuries such as broken bones, traumatic brain injury, and severed fingers or limbs.  Automatic door injuries are often caused by defective or poorly maintained systems closing with excessive force or closing unexpectedly.

Traumatic brain injuries are more prevalent than one might imagine.  According to the CDC, approximately 1.4 million people in United States suffer traumatic brain injuries each year.   Of those, approximately 50,000 die from their injuries, 235,000 are hospitalized, and 1.1 million are treated and released from the emergency department.  Injuries to the brain can be difficult to self-diagnose as the signs and symptoms may be subtle and not appear until days or weeks after the injury.  People that have suffered a traumatic brain injury may appear fine, but changes in their behavior or health may signify injury.

Some signs of traumatic brain injury include:

  • headache or neck pain that does not subside
  • difficulty remembering, concentrating or making decision
  • slowness in thinking, speaking, acting, or reading
  • see more signs and symptoms at CDC.gov

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