Window Falls

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Window Falls

Brien Roche

Window Falls In The Springtime

Window falls causing injuries to minors are a springtime phenomenon. It is not unusual to read about incidents of small children falling out apartment complex windows. Over the years injury attorney Brien Roche has handled such cases in the Northern Virginia and D.C. area.

Window Falls-Prior Incidents

An obvious point of inquiry is to determine whether or not there have been any prior falls. These may have happened either in that development or in other developments of that owner or manager. This, of course, is something that can be inquired into in the course of discovery. You should consider a Freedom of Information Act request to the local EMS services that serve either that project or other projects of that owner or manager.

Window Falls and State and Federal Laws

In Virginia the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) does not offer a great deal of assistance for a Plaintiff in window falls. There is no specific height requirement for a window. In a case that I handled the windows throughout the complex were only 11 inches off the floor. In window falls where the window is a short distance from the floor you may want to look at whether the landlord offers windows that only open from the top. This would prevent a child from ever falling out. Window guards affixed inside the apartment can prevent a child from getting to the window. Window stoppers come in several different forms. Some of them are as simple as a screw on device that prevent the window from being opened more than a few inches.

You need to fully explore the status of the building vis a vis Federal Regulations. The lease should give some clue as to whether the complex is regulated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Also it may be subject to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Regulations put out by the Internal Revenue Service. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit program is governed by §42 of the Internal Revenue Code and also by the corresponding federal regulations found in 26 CFR §1.42.


26 CFR Section 1.42-5(c)(vi) requires property owners of low income tax credit units to certify annually that the units are suitable for occupancy taking into account local health, safety and building codes.

State Code

You need to review the USBC that was in effect when the building was constructed. In addition review the Property Maintenance Code which in Virginia is now known as the International Property Maintenance Code. Section 301.2 of that code states that a person shall not occupy as owner/occupant or permit another person to occupy premises which are not in a safe or sanitary condition and which do not comply with the requirements of this chapter.

If there is a history of prior window falls in the complex or in others owned or managed by the Defendants, then you may be able to bootstrap this code section on the issue of safety. Another code section that may apply is found in the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act at §55-248.13(A)(4). This requires that the landlord maintain in safe working order all…ventilating…and other facilities and appliances. Section 202 of the Property Maintenance Code defines ventilation as the natural or mechanical process of supplying or removing air. A window is a facility or appliance that allows ventilation. The maintenance of windows would be within the embrace of this duty.

Case Law

The Caudill and Isbell cases may pose special problems . The Defendant no doubt will seek to rely on these cases as a bar to recovery. Caudill v. Gibson Fuel Co., Inc., 185 Va. 233, 38 S.E.2d 465 (1946) and Isbell v. Commercial Investment Assoc., Inc., 273 Va. 605, 644 S.E.2d 72 (2007)

To defeat any Plea in Bar or Motion for Summary Judgment based on Caudill or Isbell the focus has to be on the issue of exclusive possession and control of the window by the plaintiff. In addition has there been any concealment of prior incidents? Also is there any propensity of children to fall out of these windows. The lease and course of conduct is going to govern the issue of exclusive possession and control. Also you need to know who maintains the windows. What control do the Defendants maintain over the windows pursuant to the lease? Who has done any repairs on the windows? One trial court has dealt with this issue of exclusive control of a door as seen in Jeter v. Ark Properties, 64 Va. Cir. 287, 2004 WL 2848519.

Window Falls-Liability Claims

If your child or one you know has been injured as a result of a window fall, contact us.

See windows for a review of Virginia case law on this subject. Also for more info on premises liability issues related to window falls see the other pages on this site.
For more info on premises liability see the pages on Wikipedia.

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Window Falls

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    Contact Us For A Free Consultation