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The victim of slip-and-fall injury was awarded $38.6 million by a California jury. The victim suffered a brain injury after slipping and falling from the balcony of a hotel. The argument made on behalf of the victim was that the balcony railing was a few inches below the height required by building codes.

The motel railing was about 34 inches while the 1970s code required 42 inch railings. Engineers and biomechanics testified that building codes were changed from 36 inches to 42 inches because the higher height could prevent falls in people who were over 5’7” tall.

Even with the building code violation, the victim faced an uphill battle to receive restitution at trial. Why? Because the facts were not in favor of the victim. It turns out the plaintiff’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit, there were no witnesses who saw the victim fall from the balcony, the victim suffered amnesia and didn’t remember falling, and he had a previous brain injury from a fall a few months earlier, according to

Despite the problematic facts, the jury determined that the motel was 85 percent at fault and awarded the victim $38.6 million. The highest settlement offered by the defendant was $250,000.

The Virginia Injury Lawyer’s Perspective:

We are glad to see that the victim was successful in this case. Slip and fall cases are some of the most challenging personal injury cases since many defendants are not keen to settle and some juries are quite apprehensive to slip and fall victims.

However, the attorneys who represented the victim in this case took a different approach – they embraced the victim’s flaws (i.e. his high blood alcohol level) and emphasized just how dangerous the motel railings were for not just the victim, but for most people who were taller than 5’7.

Potentially Helpful Info:

Article on what to do if you suffer a serious injury from a slip, trip, or fall

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC). The attorneys publish articles and edit the Legal Examiner for the Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Northeast North Carolina regions as pro bono service.


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