Know What to Do in Case of a Ceiling Collapse Injury

New York Premises Liability Lawyer

It started as a brown spot on the ceiling. Then the plaster started to bulge. One unfortunate morning, while the tenant was taking a shower, the ceiling ripped open. Plaster, wall board, wood and debris fell onto her, striking her head, face, shoulders and knocking her off balance. She landed on a hard tile floor, injuring her back and shoulder. The injured tenant crawled, naked, to the telephone to call her husband for assistance. This event resulted in numerous injuries that required months long medical care, physical rehabilitation and lasting injuries. Who should be held responsible for her injuries? Who will compensate her for the medical bills and time lost from work? What about her pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life?

Who’s Liable for the Injury Caused by a Ceiling Collapse in New York?

The property owner and possibly the management company in charge of the building should be held accountable and made to pay for her damages. However, like all premises liability lawsuits in New York, there are several significant elements of proof required before the plaintiff can succeed. A basic claim requires proof that:

  • the building owner or managing agent had a duty of care to the injured party;
    • that they breached that duty of care;
    • that the breach of care was a proximate cause or substantial factor in bringing about the injury.

In New York State, the owner of a building has a non-delegable duty of care for its structural integrity to all those who live in or visit the building. A managing agent may or may not have a duty of care to the tenants.

Breach of Duty in Ceiling Collapse Injury

There will be a breach of the duty of care when there is a dangerous condition that the responsible party whether the owner or its agent knew or should have known about and failed to repair. The dangerous condition is usually the easy part. A leak in the ceiling – or more likely than not- the pipes concealed in the ceiling – causes structural damage to the ceiling, walls and other parts of the building structure that over time will weaken those structures. People have an expectation that the ceiling will not collapse.

The element that may be missing and can be detrimental to your claim if it is not proven, is the element of Notice. Did the landlord know about the condition (ie- someone told the landlord or the landlord observed the condition – actual notice) or should have the landlord, in the exercise of reasonable care, discovered the dangerous condition (visits to the apartment over a period of time that the condition existed – constructive notice).

If you observe a water leak condition or stains or mold or mushrooms, document it immediately and bring it to the attention of the building owner, condominium sponsor, managing agent or management company. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Telling the building superintendent is a start but the super may not always relay the message to the owner or the condominium building sponsor. He may not even be an employee of the building owner, the sponsor or the managing agent. The most preferred way to make a complaint is in writing and prior to an accident occurring. Also, try to keep proof of delivery of the complaint to the responsible parties.

Evidence Needed for a Personal Injury Case

If the ceiling does collapse and causes an injury, have someone document and photograph the condition immediately before it is cleaned and repaired.

If possible, have the open ceiling inspected by a building inspector or engineer to document what the origin of the leak was and what was the cause. You must take every step possible to undercut the building’s claims that it did not know the condition existed or that it just occurred over a short period of time that did not allow them to make repairs.

The building may also claim that the water leak was caused by the improper or careless use of water, toilet, sinks and or baths by the tenant in the unit above your apartment. Speak to your neighbors and obtain statements from them to counter this defense.

Finally, be ready to describe the precise manner of being struck by the falling debris and how that falling debris caused the injury. How the injury occurred is very important. Being struck by falling plaster while lying still on the bed will not cause a torn meniscus in your knee unless you fell or twisted your knee during the fall.

Why You May Need a New York Personal Injury Lawyer to Get a Full and Fair Recovery for Your Injuries in a Premises Liability Accident

In order to recover compensation for injuries sustained in a New York premises liability accident, you must establish that the negligence of a company or individual is responsible for your accident. In the case of premises liability lawsuits, simply getting injured at the home or business of another is not enough to obtain compensation from them.

Personal injury lawyers know the laws applicable to premises liability cases and our staff know the evidence that needs to be gathered to win these cases. We regularly collect the following materials when prosecuting our New York premises liability accidents:

  • Medical records and bills
  • Incident reports
  • Statements from witnesses to an accident
  • Photos of the area where an incident took place
  • Reports of engineers and architects
  • Condominium sponsor related documents
  • Property Management company related documents
  • Condominium Association related documents
  • Wage loss verifications from employers
  • Narrative reports from treating physicians to establish the extent of the injury and / or disability
  • Deeds and other documents to establish ownership or control of a property

While some of the above materials may seem unnecessary, when insurance carriers and lawyers defending a premises liability lawsuit see that we have done the work on the premises liability interrogatories and are ready to litigate a case, they tend to view the case with a more serious eye towards resolution for full value than if we were to only gather the bare basics. We like to think that our intensive case preparation means a larger and faster settlement for our clients

If you have been due to a structural defect in a condominium building or a falling ceiling in New York City, contact Michael J. Redenburg, Esq. PC at 212-240-9465 to schedule a free, no obligation in-office consultation and get the wheels of justice spinning for you!