$24.75 Million Jury Verdict in Balcony Collapse Case Severely Injuring Three Family Members and Others

James and Vanesha Doran and their daughter, Candice, attended a dinner following Candice’s college graduation ceremony. The dinner was held at Arbor Station Apartments. As James, Vanesha and Candice were standing on the second-floor balcony with Sandra Miles and other guests waiting to enter Candice’s apartment, the landing suddenly collapsed, causing the guests to fall about 20 feet to the pavement below.

James Doran, 43, suffered multiple fractures to both of his legs, including compound fractures to the left tibia and fibula and a fracture of his right femur. He underwent open reduction internal fixation surgery on the tibia and fibula fractures and was hospitalized for nearly a month, including 3 weeks of inpatient rehabilitation. He now walks with a cane. He incurred $156,200 in medical expenses and his future medical expenses are estimated to be about $105,800. Doran was a machinist and was unable to return to his job and is now permanently disabled. His past and future lost earnings are estimated to be more than $900,000.

James’s wife, Vanesha Doran, 43, sustained a right heel fracture, injuries to the right foot resulting in contracture of the middle toes at the joints, a tear to the right medial meniscus (right knee cartilage) and a lumbar herniated disk. She underwent surgeries to repair the meniscus tear and to implant a spinal nerve stimulator after nerve-block injections failed to relieve her lower back pain. She also developed complex regional pain syndrome in her lower back, resulting in chronic, debilitating pain. She now uses a wheelchair. Her past medical expenses totaled about $124,300. Her future medical expenses and life-care costs for what is expected to be a total knee replacement and to replace batteries in the stimulator were said to be estimated at around $4.23 million. She was a legal assistant at the time of the incident and is now permanently disabled. Her lost future earnings are estimated at over $800,000.

Candice Doran was 23 years old at the time of the balcony collapse. She suffered a fractured right ankle requiring fusion surgery and internal injuries resulting in a neurogenic bladder or a condition in which the person has lost bladder control. This was caused by the nerve damage in the fall. She must self-catherize herself six times a day for the rest of her life. She sustained about $89,500 in medical expenses. Her future medical expenses and life-care costs are estimated at $412,000. Candice is currently pursuing a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in the same field. She will, however, be limited to working 6 hours a day resulting in a 25-40% reduction in earning capacity. Her lost future earnings are estimated at between $486,000 and $778,000.

Sandra Miles, 44, suffered a fractured right ankle, tears to her right knee’s interior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus, a lumbar herniation and cervical dystonia, which is a painful condition when the neck muscles contract involuntarily. She underwent an ankle fusion and surgery to repair the meniscus tear, incurring approximately $116,900 in medical expenses. She will likely require multiple knee replacement surgeries with future expenses estimated to be about $412,700. Miles was a nurse at the time of the incident. She was unable to return to her job and is now permanently disabled. Her past and future lost earnings are estimated to be $2.81 million.

All four individuals filed a lawsuit against the companies that owned and managed the apartment complex alleging that the balcony collapsed because of structural defects resulting from poor maintenance and inspection. The plaintiffs’ structural engineering expert testified at trial that the braces connecting the balcony to the apartment building were inadequate and poorly maintained.

There was evidence at trial that the apartment complex balconies had been shifting. In fact, the defendants sought bids to repair the problem, but the repairs had not been done. The plaintiffs also presented an inspection performed in connection with the owners’ attempts to seek financing for the complex. The inspection performed about 11 months before the incident noted severe structural problems at the complex and warned that a failure could occur within a year if repairs were not done.

The defendants maintained that the problems and defects alleged predated their ownership and management of the apartment complex. They also argued that the problem with the braces was not observable from outside the structure and therefore they were not aware of the problem. The jury didn’t buy the defendants’ excuses for this preventable incident.

The jury entered a verdict for the plaintiffs in the total amount of $24.75 million, which included $10 million to Vanesha Doran, $6 million to Candice Doran, $5 million to James Doran and $3.5 million to Sandra Miles. The jury also entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $250,000 for punitive damages. The defendants were found jointly and severally liable, which means that they could each be responsible for paying the entire amount of the jury’s several verdicts.

The attorneys representing the Doran family and Miles were Kendall C. Dunson, Jere L. Beasley, Gregg E. McDougal, Jason M. Burton and Michael A. Kaeding.

At trial, the plaintiffs offered experts in structural engineering, vocational rehabilitation, life-care planning and economics. The defendants offered expert opinions testifying in structural engineering and life-care planning.

Miles v. Arbor Station Apartments, II, LLC, No. CV-2013-900701.00 (Ala. Cir. Ct. Montgomery County, March 23, 2015).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois catastrophic injury cases, product liability cases, structural defect cases, premises liability cases, truck accident cases, car accident cases and bicycle accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Evergreen Park, Riverdale, Calumet Park, Alsip, Brookfield, Riverside, Maywood, Forest Park, Elmwood Park, River Grove, Schiller Park, Bensenville, Elmhurst, Mount Prospect, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Wheeling, Vernon Hills, Rolling Meadows, Palatine, Maywood, Berkeley, Hillside, Oakbrook, Blue Island, Harwood Heights, Chicago (Chinatown, Canaryville, Bridgeport, Beverly, Back of the Yards, Austin, Lawndale, Pilsen, Little Italy, Ukrainian Village, Clybourn Corridor, Roscoe Village, Lincoln Square, Albany Park, Pulaski Park, Rosehill, Uptown), Oak Park and Grayslake, Ill.

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