A 17 year-old boy was killed when the four-story city parking garage’s interior metal staircase collapsed. Chris Gaston was found the next morning dead from severe head injuries. Chris Gaston’s father, on behalf of his estate, brought an Illinois personal injury lawsuit against the City of Danville claiming that it had been aware that the staircase was in hazardous condition because of lack of repair, but chose not to correct the defect. Gaston v. City of Danville, 912 N.E.2d 771 (Ill.App. 2009).
It was the opinion of the expert for the Gaston family that the Illinois personal injury occurred when Chris was coming down from the third floor landing midway between the second and third floor is when the wells between the stair stringers to the midway landing broke, causing the stairs to drop downward and hang. This sent Gaston to the landing below. When the welded connection at the third floor landing broke, the entire stair branch slid down the railing striking Gaston on the back of the head.
The evidence in the Illinois personal injury case showed that for more than four years before this incident, a different stair stringer had separated from one of the landings. After a structural engineer inspected the staircase and recommended certain repair options, including repairing and replacing the second floor landing only, no action was taken. A professional engineer than opined that an accumulation of packed rust was weakening the metal and causing broken wells in a number of areas.
It was recommended that either replacement of the entire stairwell at the cost of $30,000 was necessary or repair and replacement of the second floor landing only of a port also noted that corrosion would continue and that the useful life of the remaining stairway was unknown. The city had chosen not to repair the corroded stairway, instead opting to repair only the stair stringer that had separated.
It was also found that three years before the incident a worker in the city’s motor vehicle parking division had recommended to both the mayor of the city and the head that the stairs be repaired. The state lawsuit also named the structural engineer and the construction firm that performed the repair.
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