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The owners or operators of a building such as a hotel, an apartment complex or a store have an obligation to check and maintain railings and balconies. This is important because defective railings pose a hazard to children and elderly people in particular.

Railing collapses and balcony fall accidents are rare but often deadly when they occur. In 2015, a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, California, killing five Irish students and one Irish-American. Seven other students suffered critical injuries.

The families of the deceased later reached a settlement with property managers and owners of the apartment complex. The case highlighted the complicated nature of the construction industry. The balcony collapsed because of water trapped on the deck during construction. This caused extensive rot and led the balcony to fail. However, the materials used were in line with building code regulations.

In 1997, one person died and 18 people ended up with injuries when a balcony collapsed at the University of Virginia. The Commonwealth of Virginia later agreed to pay $271,500 to settle the case with the students who sustained injuries. An inspection of the balcony three years before the collapse failed to detect rust in a 175-year-old iron support in the structure. The rod snapped, causing the balcony to crash to the ground.

Although most balconies and railings are sound, the tragedies in Berkeley and Charlottesville highlight how structural problems are often hidden. You face a risk of fall injuries from any building. Even a fall of 30 feet can be catastrophic if you hit your head on pavement.

Railings are often put to the test by large crowds. In 2016, 42 people were injured after a railing collapsed during an outdoor performance by rappers Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa in New Jersey. Dozens of fans fell several feet onto a concrete floor. One fan suffered a serious body injury and many others were treated for fractures.

Railings are particularly important because people use them for support on stairwells or other areas. They are usually attached to a building by an anchoring system involving fastening devices. Over time, anchoring systems can work loose and fail. Railings are more likely to fail in older buildings but you should not assume you are safe if you are in a newer hotel or an apartment complex. Always be particularly careful about children who are on balconies or other areas with drops.

Under the law of premises liability, a building owner or a manager is under a duty to make sure railings and balconies are inspected and are safe for visitors or residents to rely on. When things go wrong, the consequences are often tragic.

Recently in Norfolk, a toddler suffered a serious traumatic brain injury when he fell through a gap in the railings on a balcony. The boy’s family filed a lawsuit against the hotel resulting in a $10.9 million payout. The case highlights how hotels that fail to protect their guests often face massive lawsuits. However, no amount of money can make up for the heartbreak of a child suffering a traumatic brain injury.

Who Can be Held Liable for Railings Collapses and Balcony Fall Accidents?

The owner or operator of any facility that invites members of the public as guests can be held liable for railing collapses and balcony fall accidents. This applies to hotel chains, the operators of shopping malls, sports facilities, swimming pools, and restaurants.

The risk of falling from a multi-story building means railings on balconies, stairwells, and common areas must be built in accordance with codes and properly inspected and maintained.

Landlords are also responsible for the upkeep of railings in communal areas in apartment complexes. The duty is on the owner or the occupier of a building to ensure that railings are secure and will not give way when a guest leans on them.

However, a landowner is not usually responsible for injuries suffered by trespassers. For example, an intruder who breaks into a factory to steal material and falls down stairs when a rotten railing gives way is not protected by the law of premises liability.

Because of the risk of falling from a multi-story building, railings must be robust. On occasions, a railing may be of a defective design. It may not be strong enough to bear loads.

Repairs to anchors to railings have to be done in a certain way.  They can’t just be patched up  Often the building owner or a management company must drill a new hole and make sure that a new anchor system at least as good as the original one is installed so as the railing can support a person.

Railings must be installed and repaired to prevent small children from getting through them. Anyone who has childproofed their home will be aware of the meticulous nature of this job. Building owners or contractors must work to minimum distances between the rails.

If a child can get his or her head through the two bars of a rail then it unlikely to be safe.  Railings must meet strict industry standards.

Contact a Virginia Injury Lawyer over Railing Collapses and Balcony Fall Accidents

Railing collapses and balcony falls are often terrible for the victims. People who have seen a child killed or seriously injured in a fall in resorts like Virginia Beach struggle to come to terms with the tragedy. You may not realize it at the time, but often a building owner or manager is liable for the failure of a safety feature. Please contact the Smith Law Center as soon as possible at (757) 244-7000.

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If you or a relative had a severe reaction to military housing mold, it might be time to talk with a toxic mold lawyer. Mold is everywhere, and can be dangerous. Researchers have linked mold to serious respiratory illnesses in some individuals.

Smith Law Center may be able to help if a property owner failed to keep you safe from mold in your military housing. We are one of Virginia’s oldest and most successful firms. We know how to hold negligent property owners responsible, especially when the military is involved.

Call us at (757) 244-700 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. There’s no fee for learning more about Virginia mold laws, your rights, and your legal options.

Mold in Military Housing

Black mold in military housing became widely known when Reuters published an investigation in 2018. Since then, the Department of Defense and the housing providers were supposed to take steps to improve the situation.

Unfortunately, a 2020 audit by the DoD Office of Inspector General found many issues, including the need for mold remediation, still persist.

Monetary Awards in Military Housing Toxic Mold Cases

If the property owner lets toxic mold run wild and continue to cause you harm, talk with our toxic mold attorneys about filing a lawsuit.

You may receive financial compensation for:

Service members and their families do not receive different types of damages than civilians. These are civil lawsuits in traditional courts of law.

Military Housing Mold Toxicity Symptoms

The Institute of Medicine discovered there was evidence connecting exposure to indoor mold with:

  • Upper respiratory tract symptoms;
  • Coughing;
  • Wheezing;
  • Asthma symptoms in individuals with asthma; and
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals with weak immune systems.

There is also limited evidence that mold causes respiratory illnesses in healthy children or causes people to develop asthma.

Understanding Exposure to Toxic Mold in Military Housing

The topic of toxic mold is complicated. This Is in part because the term “toxic mold” isn’t accurate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains mold isn’t toxic or poisonous. However, some molds are toxigenic, which means they produce toxins called mycotoxins.

Mold is common in military housing because it’ll grow anywhere there’s moisture. That includes on and inside walls, carpet, upholstery, wallpaper, and heating and air conditioning systems. This is especially pronounced in humid conditions such as those present in Virginia.

Some people have no difficulties around mold, even large infestations in their homes. Other individuals are sensitive to molds, including those that produce mycotoxins. Someone can have a severe reaction when exposed to a large amount of mold indoors.

People may be more likely to experience mold toxicity symptoms if they have:

  • Allergies,
  • An underlying lung disease,
  • Immune suppression,
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder,
  • Asthma, or
  • Another chronic respiratory disease.

Common Types of Military Housing Mold

When you’re trying to learn more from the CDC and other resources, you’ll see the word “fungus” a lot. Mold is a type of fungus, which is something that exists all around us. Fungi are living organisms different from animals, plants, and bacteria. There are over 200,000 types of fungi and over 100,000 types of molds.

If you discovered mold in your military housing, it could be Cladosporium, Penicillium, Stachybotrys chartarum, Aspergillus, or many other types. Stachybotrys is what everyone knows as black mold. Aspergillus is a common indoor fungus, which releases mycotoxins and can cause illness. Your symptoms may resemble common allergy or asthma symptoms.

Who is Liable for Military Housing Mold?

Since 1996, most military housing has come under the management of private companies:

  • Belfour Beatty Communities: Fort Eustis and Fort Story/li>
  • Lincoln Military Housing: Dahlgren, Little Creek, Naval Station Norfolk, Northwest Annex, Oceana, Portsmouth, Quantico, and Yorktown/li>
  • Hunt Military Communities: Fort Lee and Langley AFB

Outside of Virginia, Lendlease and Corvias Military Living are two more housing providers. Together, these five companies formed the Military Housing Association.

Military families living in on-base housing must take their complaints to their private management company — not the military. The company is responsible for providing habitable conditions and making repairs, including mold remediation.

If you’re unsure about your rights, review your state law and local ordinances about mold. In general, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to provide a habitable unit, which means it has to be safe to live in. A unit isn’t safe if it’s causing a tenant health issues due to mold.

The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act requires landlords to disclose if there’s mold in the written report of the move-in inspection. If a tenant discovers visible mold in the unit, then the Act requires the landlord to remove the mold and relocate the tenant until it’s gone at no additional cost to the tenant.

Unfortunately, many families find their housing providers aren’t receptive to complaints. Attorney Stephen M. Smith has handled many mold lawsuits against military housing providers who fail to abide by their lease terms and the law when it comes to mold remediation and other hazards.

Other Hazards in Military Housing

Many service members and their families deal with uncomfortable, if not hazardous, conditions in privatized military housing, including:

Lead Paint: Lead-based paint can cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, irritability, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, organ damage, and in extreme cases, death.

Asbestos: Exposure to asbestos harms a person’s lungs, and can lead to lung fibrosis (scarring), lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Radon: Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It naturally forms underground, however cracks and gaps in buildings lead to over-exposure indoors.

Poor Water Quality: Dozens of military sites have water with detectable levels of harmful chemicals.

Other issues involve rodent or insect infestations, pesticides, and faulty electrical wiring.

What Happens When a Lot of People Get Sick?

Sometimes mold exposure impacts a single individual or family. However, when the mold spreads throughout military housing, it can impact hundreds or thousands of people.

Occasionally, a large enough group of people are injured to allow for a class action or mass tort lawsuit. A class action lawsuit is one where a class representative acts as the plaintiff on behalf of the group of hurt individuals. Not every victim participates in the lawsuit. There are rules about when a group is big and similar enough to create a class action.

Mass tort lawsuits are different. When there are fewer plaintiffs who have their own set of circumstances, each person files a lawsuit. For efficiency’s sake, one or a couple of law firms may represent most plaintiffs, and the lawsuits are consolidated in a federal court.

Call the Military Housing Mold Lawyers at Smith Law Center for Help Right Away

Mold cases come about in a few ways. You or a loved one may start getting sick, and after weeks or months of struggling to find answers, you finally realize your military housing has a mold infestation. In other cases, you struggle with visible mold and then become ill.

Once you connect the illness with the mold, it’s time to talk with a toxic mold lawyer. Reaching out to an attorney early helps you build a strong compensation claim. We know how to collect evidence, identify who is liable, and craft a successful argument for a settlement or court award.

Attorney Stephen M. Smith has decades of experience handling injury claims and has been internationally recognized for his work. He has litigated cases involving catastrophic injuries and complex legal and scientific issues. In 2019, he was inducted into the Virginia Lawyers Hall of Fame.

You’re in good hands when you come to Smith Law Center for help. Reach out online or call (757) 244-7000 to schedule your 100% free consultation.

Military Housing Mold Lawsuits: FAQs

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