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Plaintiff falls on defendant apartment complex staircase - Compound arm fracture requiring surgery.

Middlesex County, Massachusetts

The plaintiff, a 50 year old administrator for a school department, was visiting her mother, who lived at the defendant apartment complex, when she fell on an exterior staircase. The plaintiff contended that the stairway was not code compliant because it had no railing and because there was a change in elevation at the top which presented a tripping hazard. The plaintiff brought a premises liability action against the defendant apartment complex.

As a result of the fall, the plaintiff sustained a compound fracture of her arm which required surgery and resulted in significant scarring, ongoing numbness and limitations to range of motion. The plaintiff also made a lost wages claim for time missed from work due to her injuries.

At trial the plaintiff called a liability expert who testified that the change in elevation on the staircase presented a tripping hazard especially at the top of the stairs.

The defendant contended that there was nothing wrong with the staircase; that there was a minor change in elevation that did not present a tripping hazard. The defendant presented evidence that its property was well maintained. Further, the defendant pointed to the fact that the plaintiff’s mother had lived at the premises for at least 10 years during which time the plaintiff visited approximately 2 times per week and had never had a problem with the staircase. The defendant also put forth that the plaintiff’s testimony as to how the accident happened included many inconsistencies. At trial the defendant presented an architectural expert who testified that the stairs in question were code compliant, that there was a minimal change in elevation, that there was no tripping hazard and that the staircase was structurally sound.

The jury found no negligence on the part of the defendant and returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.

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