A California jury awarded the victim of a slip and fall injury $38.6 million to compensate the person for a brain injury caused by a low motel balcony railing. The railing was significantly lower than local building codes required and therefore did not protect anyone over 5 feet 7 inches tall from falling.
While this award is certainly larger than a typical slip and fall settlement would be, it also shows that these types of accidents can cause very severe injuries. This is one of the many reasons why property owners are held to the standard of reasonable safety for visitors and why they have a duty to warn people of known or likely hazards.
Brain injuries are some of the most difficult injuries to recover from, since the brain is slow to repair itself and does not regrow tissue the way that other organs can. Many accident victims who sustain head and brain injuries suffer from memory loss and loss of other cognitive functions that can make it difficult or impossible to continue to work. One of the major factors influencing large awards in brain injury cases is often the large amount of lost wages caused by the injury.
Violating building codes are one obvious way that property owners can breach their duty of care, which is why some legal experts found it surprising that this case went before a jury. Often when a defendant has violated a law that led to the injury it is very clear that they were at fault for the harm and they may choose to settle instead of going before a jury.
Source: Legal Examiner, "Slip and Fall Victim Receives $38.6 million Jury award," Kevin Duffan, August 2, 2012.
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