Recent Balcony Collapses Across the Country Raise Questions of Safety | DENENA | POINTS

Recent Balcony Collapses Across the Country Raise Questions of Safety

The number of people injured in balcony collapses in the US continues to grow, as this summary of recent collapses illustrates:

  • In Baltimore during a college Labor Day party, a balcony collapsed and fell only eight feet, but that was enough to put six people in the hospital with injuries.  The only local government involvement was to verify that the building was safe, and beyond that any remedies would be between the property owner and those that were injured.  Balconies are often inspected at the time of construction, but rarely after that time.
  • In Oakland, California 9 people were critically injured when a balcony in a private home collapsed for no known reason.  One of the primary causes of injury was due to victims being trapped under the rubble.
  • A third story balcony collapsed in the French Quarter of New Orleans, causing gas and water leaks in the area.  Although there were no injuries, the balcony was part of a 200-year old building in disrepair that seemed to collapse for no reason other than age and poor maintenance.

Who Is Responsible for Balcony Collapses?

In all of these cases it is unclear who is responsible for the collapse, or if there were too many people gathered on the balcony at one time.  Although it seems the majority of balcony collapses occur at private homes or apartments, it can happen anywhere such as hotels, restaurants and storefronts.  Injuries can occur to those on the balcony, or anyone standing below at the time of collapse.

When this type of accident results in injury, there is always the question of fault or liability.  The law of premises liability pertains to accidents that happen as a result of unsafe conditions on the property.  If those hazards, such as a defective or poorly maintained balcony, were to cause injury then the owner or tenant could be liable.  If the property is new, then it is possible the construction or design was defective, in which case the developer or contractor could be found at fault.

Ways to Prevent Balcony Collapse Injuries

Even if the owner did not know of the danger, the fact that an accident occurred on their property brings the focus on their inspection and maintenance procedures.  If they never inspected the balcony or simply ignored a state of disrepair, then the owner may be responsible.  So, the easiest way to prevent this type of accident is a regular maintenance process.

Tenants also have a responsibility to protect their guests from harm.  In cases where too many people are allowed on a balcony at a party, the tenant who permitted an unsafe gathering may be partially responsible.  Owners should inform tenants of the maximum allowable number of people on a balcony, and insist that they not exceed the limit.  These simple steps could prevent many balcony collapses, and protect innocent visitors from unnecessary injuries.