Child Fatally Falls From Poorly Designed Apartment Window

Construction Expert Witness

This case involves a child who fell from the 8th story window of an apartment complex. The window in question extended from the floor to the ceiling and opened directly from the bottom. The window had a safety lock permitting it to only open 6 inches, however, the safety guard could be overridden and the window could be opened all the way. On the day in question, the apartment was being professionally painted and the painter had opened the window completely to ventilate the hallway. Later on, while the mother was in the bathroom, the child walked over to the window and fell to her death. It is alleged that in the past, various apartment owners had voiced their concerns about the dangers that this window design might pose to children. An expert with experience in general contracting for multi-family residential construction projects was sought to discuss the safety and efficacy of these particular windows and speak to the recommendations of the contractors to use these specific windows in this building.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please briefly describe your experience with multifamily residences and recommending windows for such structures.
  • 2. Are you familiar with windows such as the one in this case? Can you speak to the potential hazards that may exist with using these windows?
  • 3. Could you speak to proper alternatives that do not open all the way up from the bottom?

Expert Witness Response E-082977

As an architect, I would never specify such a window, even for clients with no children, since they may have guests with children, and such a window is not acceptable and should be taken off the market in my estimation and professional opinion. I have done some forensic work on multi-family units, and many other multi-family construction defects cases. This case would use existing code requirements, which I research, apply in my practice, and can testify to. Specifically, we should look at state building code that requires guards be installed at openings greater than 4″. This would then require guards be placed at such windows – guards installed to prevent passage of a sphere 4″ in diameter or greater at any such window. There are two exceptions to this rule, but neither would apply in this case. There are so many ways to specify a safe window opening in a common area hallway, that I believe we can show negligence on the part of the architect and/or contractor for specifying/recommending such a window, and negligence on the part of the contractor for installing such a window, and possibly, negligence on the part of the property management company and the HOA.

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