After the 2003 Lincoln Park porch collapse disaster which resulted in a wrongful death accident which claimed the lives of 13 people, the City of Chicago implemented an intensive porch inspection program to identify buildings which were susceptible to porch collapse accidents. The inspection program resulted in several building owners being cited and required to make repairs or replace the porches on their buildings. The City also updated its building code to impose stricter safety requirements. With the public outcry following the Lincoln Park porch collapse accident having died down, the City has scaled back its porch inspection program, and according to a recent Chicago Tribune story, the City’s position is that it is up to tenants to let the City know when there is a potential safety issue with the porch at their building. They claim that once the City is notified, the building will be inspected — after a delay that may last several weeks.The Tribune also listed several factors that may be indicators that a porch is not safe. Safety problems with a porch are indicated by:
- Split or rotting wood;
- Evidence of water damage;
- Loose, rusting, or missing hardware or bolts;
- Loose or missing anchors where the porch attaches to the building;
- Excessive movement or wobbling when the porch is walked on; and
- Loose or missing handrails or railings.
Tenants are of course at risk for injuries from dangerous porches for reasons other than the porch collapsing. Other kinds of porch accidents might include:
- Tripping and falling on loose floor boards or stairs;
- Falling through rotted boards or railings;
- Loose railings giving way;
- Loose handrails giving way resulting in a fall due to loss of balance;
- Uneven or excessively steep stairs causing a fall due to loss of balance.
Because stairways are part of the common areas of an apartment building, it falls to the landlord to make sure that these are kept in reasonably safe condition, including complying with all building codes. When an accident happens in an apartment building, injured tenants should hire an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer to identify the correct legal entities which should be sued as defendants in the case and to identify the relevant building code violations.