In a bizarre twist to the tradition of taking family photos during holidays and gatherings, family members in Kentucky recently suffered multiple injuries when a balcony and stairway collapsed during the photo shoot. There were 20 members of the family on a wooden stairway when under their combined weight it collapsed, bringing their Christmas Day photo to a swift conclusion.
Two Separate Christmas Day Photo Accidents
The top of the stairway was about 20 feet off the ground; so a few family members had a long fall. Six family members were taken to the hospital with fractures and broken bones, but no serious injuries. The family intends to keep taking the Christmas photo, but probably in a safer location. This rather innocuous tradition can carry hazards if people don’t think about the stability of a structure before assembling a small crowd.
This is not the only Christmas day photo to be reported that resulted in an accident. A similar incident occurred in Indiana when a family of 25 crowded onto a deck and it collapsed under them. Broken bones and neck fractures were the result, and the family ended up filing a lawsuit against the company that built the deck.
Who Is At Fault When A Balcony is Overloaded?
The question of liability in these unusual cases is similar to other balcony collapses. While the companies that build or design balconies have a duty to do so safely, there is also a limit to how much weight a structure can bear. People who have large parties on balconies, or in these cases assemble the entire family at once, have some responsibility for use of common sense.
For property owners or balcony construction companies, the use of warning signs and weight limits seems like the only way to avoid a lawsuit for unsafe or poor construction. The combined weight of 20 or more people can total almost 2 tons, and few balconies are constructed to hold that type of weight load. Nonetheless, liability law requires that users be informed about possible hazards or weight limits, since it is easy to claim that a balcony ‘should have been strong enough’. For this reason, any balcony or stairway that could accommodate many people should have warning signs clearly visible to make sure that those present are aware that they are on a structure with clear weight limits.
In some balcony collapses, the property owner or builder fails to maintain or construct a safe structure, and in those cases liability is warranted as a means to compensate victims for the negligent oversight. There are instances where a lawsuit has encouraged other property owners to review their own balconies for safety, and in this way may help to prevent more injuries. This is one example of how the personal injury lawsuit can provide an important economic and social role, and gives property owners some incentive to maintain a safe premises. Without the threat of liability, every decision might be made based on cutting costs regardless of the financial or medical expenses borne by victims of the unsafe balcony.