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What can I do?

Discussion in 'Accidents, Injuries, Negligence' started by kenkoogirl, Feb 13, 2002.

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  1. kenkoogirl

    kenkoogirl Law Topic Starter New Member

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    My brother (31 years old) fell up a flight of stairs while my family was vacationing at a rental property. He reinjured his leg (broken femur) above the old break. The stairs are progressively taller (ranging from 6-1/2" to 9+"). It's complicated, he's on Medicaid and is disabled (from the original injury). My mother's wedding was held at the house, and she may try to discourage my brother from taking any action because the house belongs to a friend of her new son-in-law's. My concern is that if we don't officially "do" anything they may leave the stairs exactly like they are and someone else might get hurt.

    I've been told that the matter will be "taken care of." I'm not sure what that means. I think they will have a conversation with the owner. I've checked with the Breckenridge building inspector and he says that the stairs aren't to code. If my brother opts to not do anything, is there any action I can take to ensure that the stairs are returned to code?
     
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Are you concerned with helping other people or that your brother be compensated? If you are solely trying to be the good samaritan then perhaps you've done what you can and these people are aware of a condition that it might likely be a good idea to fix. If you send a letter to, e.g. the dept. of housing, you may open up even more problems with the house and your good deed may help others but surely will not win you any friends with your new family.
     
  3. jmacgregor

    jmacgregor New Member

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    Just a quick note from a medical standpoint. I will list the facts and then give reason thereafter.

    1. 31 y/o male with previous femur fracture (Fx)
    2. Fell up stairs re-fracturing femur, but in a different place

    Unless a 31 year old male has some form of a degenerative bone disease, I find it very hard to envision a femur fracture resulting from a fall up stairs.
    As I'm sure you know, the femur is the largest and strongest of all bones in the human body. In the case of the previous injury, a fracture of this kind is almost always plated (screwing a plate on to one side of the femur joining either side of the fracture to ensure quick and productive healing).
    In the amount of time it would take a 31 year old male to use Medicaid and claim disability, a thick calcium build up would form around the once fractured area and often include parts of the plate. This, as a result, makes the bone quite a bit stronger than ever before. Granted, I am generalizing here. In the case of a 90 year old female with osteoperosis, I would have to say that might not be so.

    Falling 'up' a flight of stairs is yet another factor not in your favor. This would indicate that he was moving at a controled speed and presumably in a forward direction. In my experience, most femur fractures of a traumatic nature result from vehicle collisions of 40mph or greater where the knee is pushed into the dashboard followed by the body weight creating an enormous amount of pressure eventually giving way in one direction or another. For a knee to strike a step in a similar way and cause a fracture above a previous fracture is very, very unlikely.
    On the flipside, if the leg were to fold under the person as he fell, and the step acted as the primary point of impact on the bone, it could conceivably break. Again not very likely considering there would have to be more than one step to be called a 'flight' of stairs. This would give multiple points for force to be distributed thus decreasing the chances of a break.

    Of course I cannot tell what happened exactly, but if I were asked what I thought the chances were based on your discription, I would say about 2%.

    So are you blaming the owners of the house? If so, for what? If I trip on the curb while crossing the street I can't sue the city for my inability to walk in an accurate manner. In nearly 10 years of emergency/trauma medicine, I have seen my fair share of scams and abuse of the medical system. At the same time, I have seen more freak accidents and injuries than you could imagine. All I wanted to do is throw you a little curve ball to contemplate. I would be very careful in seeking compensation from the home owner. If there is more to it, best of luck to you.:)
     
  4. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Good post jmacgregor. However, that is only one factor in the case that could determine whether (1) there was such an injury and (2) if so, whether the stairs were truly the proximate cause of the injury.

    That said, it does not matter if the plaintiff's bones were brittle as, under the law, in matters of negligence we do accept cases from "eggshell plaintiffs" since the injury would have been avoided but for the defendant's negligence. If it can be shown that the stairs were negligently kept in disprepair and that the damages caused by the stairs, then there would be a recovery.

    It's a little tricky when you think about it... jmacgregor's post would probably be what the expert doctor called by the insurance company would probably testify.
     
  5. jmacgregor

    jmacgregor New Member

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    In regards to your second point, I think you could look at 'victim' as an equal proximate cause of the injury. If you fall, you can't blame the ground for hitting you.

    I'm very familliar with "eggshell plaintiffs". One of the most common scam attempts by these types is the, "I can't feel my feet" approach after an accident. Proved repeatedly by a neuro surgeon friend of mine suggesting, "you can't fake an injury to the nervous system." As he drives a rather large needle into the bottom of the patient's foot, they either react or they don't.

    After consulting an orthopedic surgeon and a sports medicine specialist (also an orthopod), it was concluded that either the victim in this case was suffering from a severe bone dysfunction or, like my second suggestion previously, the victim fell at just the right angle, at just the right point of impact placing all of his weight directly over the opposing object. In this case, it was also concluded that a 31 year old male would have to weight 350 to 400lbs or more to do the damage initally stated. If you really want to get technical, I would be glad to supply you with the calculations I used based on specific factors like weight of the mass, distance traveled (based on the average 5'9" height and anotomical structure of a human male falling to a flat plain, as opposed to the 45 degree angle of a flight of stairs - which is less), velocity of that mass * distance / pounds/sq in, etc. Approximate speed of forward motion was not taken into consideration, either was the mass/density of flesh acting as a buffer between the offending object and the bone. This, of course, increases with obesity.
     
  6. jmacgregor

    jmacgregor New Member

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    I really just agree with Michael's first reply.:D
     
  7. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Actually, again jmacgregor hits upon some excellent and intuitive logical analysis. The facts stated would be a factor in the jury determing whether the negligence was truly the proximate cause of the injury. Additionally, they would be factored into the credability of the plaintiff's claim that he/she was injured when using the stairs.

    They might also be a factor when used for "comparative negligence" cases, where the negligence of the defendant is offset by the negligence of the defendant.
     

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