Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Collapse of fire escape during party kills Pennsylvania man

Many people who lease apartments purchase renters' insurance. The protection functions much the same way homeowners' insurance does. While the primary reason Allegheny County home buyers or renters purchase insurance is to guard against personal losses, the policies also provide premises liability coverage.

A property owner or occupier can be held liable if someone gets hurt or dies in an accident on a property. Even though they pay rent instead of a mortgage, leaseholders can be held accountable for dangerous property conditions.

A party in Philadelphia recently turned deadly when three guests walked out onto an apartment fire escape to smoke. The metal support beneath the fire escape's platform collapsed. A man and two women fell to the pavement fours stories below, about 30 feet.

The man was hospitalized and died within a few hours, after suffering severe neck and head injuries. The 25- and 26-year-old women survived, but both guests had serious back injuries.

City building inspectors were at the property the following day, although officials admitted fire escape inspections were not a normal part of the inspectors' duties. The building's owner was ordered to have an engineer examine the building and make safety recommendations. Inspectors will review the report before deciding whether to take any action, like a fine.

The apartment house where the recent fatality occurred was constructed more than a century ago and was once the home of a Pennsylvania governor. The structure was converted into apartments in the mid-1940s and purchased by the current owner in 2003. No code violations are on record.

Property negligence may not be confined to an owner. Several parties may be linked to an unsafe property condition like a maintenance manager or company, a construction crew or a renter. In some instances, even a plaintiff - showing disregard for personal safety - can share blame for contributing to his or her own injuries.

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
20 Stanwix Street, Seventh Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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Phone: 412-567-1232
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