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June 2016’s Porch and Deck Collapses – So Far

Due to the Berkley balcony collapse and other high-profile porch and deck collapses, deck safety and maintenance was a hot topic in the news last year. Unfortunately, it seems that awareness of the issue and its potentially deadly consequences have not reduced the incidence of deck collapses in 2016. Furthermore, and perhaps even more troubling, some homeowners have been affected by improperly repaired and installed decks. While any type of deck failure is troublesome, improper maintenance by licensed contractors and professionals is particularly shocking. Furthermore, professional property management companies and landlords that fail to maintain their rental properties after the Berkley and Emerald Isle collapses are also particularly shocking occurrences.  

The following captures a number of the more serious deck, porch, and balcony collapses that have occurred thus far this year. Where details are available, we provide the cause of the failure along with suggestions to prevent a similar incident. For injuries sustained in New Jersey or Pennsylvania from a deck or porch collapse, contact a Philadelphia premises liability attorney of The Reiff Law Firm for help.

Fathers’ Day Deck Collapse Injures Two in New Jersey

A Fathers’ Day barbecue isn’t an uncommon occurrence for many families. In many cases, many generations of the same family may crowd out onto a porch or deck to grill or simply to spend time together. Since these events may place a significant strain on decks and porches, it is important for landlords and homeowners to inspect the deck each year. Routine wear and tear can weaken the structural integrity of a deck and cause it to collapse under a significantly lesser load than one would expect.

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However, in this collapse, only two family members were on the deck at the time of failure. Here, a husband and wife had ventured out onto their 15-foot by 30-foot deck at just before 9 p.m. in the evening. The deck was approximately 20 years old and it had just been refurbished with composite boards and rails. Unfortunately, the deck – affixed six feet above the ground – suddenly collapsed.

The cause of the collapse was identified as the deck being improperly affixed to the home. The deck had simply been nailed to the house. Nails can slip and should never be used to secure a deck. Rather, specialized lag bolts and braces that are significantly less likely to slip and cause a sudden collapse should always be utilized.

16 Injuries Reported Following Brooklyn Balcony Collapse

The Cook Mansion located in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, NY was constructed in the late 1800s. As such, even a layperson could understand the need for assiduous maintenance on at least a yearly basis for the aging structure. Furthermore, should deterioration in the structure or in supports be detected, the need for maintenance and preventative measures is clear. In fact, all decks regardless of age should be inspected before first use and periodically throughout the season.

Unfortunately, it appears that these inspections and routine maintenance work did not occur at the Bushwick mansion. In early June, a second-floor balcony collapsed suddenly during a party. While at least 50 people attended the party, 16 people were on the deck at the time. According to FDNY Battalion chief, Dennis Murphy, “I think just old age and rot and disrepair, it just wasn’t maintained properly.” The Department of Buildings reportedly conducted an inspection and issued a violation to the building’s owner for failure to maintain the deck in a safe condition.

16 Injuries Reported after Deck Collapse in Sikeston, Missouri

A deck is an excellent location to throw a gathering of family and friends. However, party hosts should be sure that the deck is rated to support the expected number of guests. Furthermore, guests should avoid congregating in a single section of the structure since a concentrated load may cause support beam or other failures.

While the exact cause has yet to be determined in a Missouri deck collapse, it appears that load distribution may be the cause of failure. According to reports, more than 20 people had gathered on a deck in Sikeston for a baby gender reveal party. The party was particularly festive and the reveal involved shooting fireworks off to show the gender of the baby through the color of the fireworks. Shortly after the fireworks were shot off, family and friends rushed to one side of the deck to congratulate the expecting mother. As the well-wishers move to one side of the deck, the deck collapsed. It appears that the sudden concentration of weight in one area of the deck contributed to the collapse.

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Hurt in a Porch or Deck Collapse? Contact a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm

June still has a way to go, and yet we have already had three serious porch and deck collapses this month. While accidents do happen, structural failures of this type are highly preventable. Homeowners, property managers and other responsible parties who fail to protect the safety of their friends, family, guests, tenants, and others open themselves up to significant legal liability for the personal injuries that occur.  If you were hurt in a serious porch or deck collapse, contact a Philadelphia personal injury attorney today.

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