Case details

Staircase’s code violations caused fall, plaintiff claimed





Result type

Not present

bicondylar tibial plateau fracture, brain, clavicle, clavicle fracture, concussion, damaged shoulder, dental, disfigurement, dislocation, face, fracture, head, knee, left bicondylar tibial plateau fracture, leg, lip, nose, scar, shoulder, tibial plateau, tooth
At around 9 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2012, plaintiff Kendra Staedler, 36, a bartender/office manager, fell on the exterior front stairs of a four-unit apartment building in Noe Valley, San Francisco. Staedler had no memory of what happened prior to the fall. As a result, she could not say what caused the fall, how she fell, why she fell, or specifically where she fell. The biomechanical engineers for both sides were able to agree on the general area on the stairs where the fall began, which was somewhere around the transition from the higher wooden stairs to the lower brick stairs. They were also able to agree that the fall happened as a result of Staedler’s right leg being planted on one wooden stair and her left leg missing at least one, and likely two, stairs, causing her to come down with her full weight on her straightened left leg on a brick stair, resulting in a fracture of her left knee. Staedler sued the real estate management company for the building, Galu Realty, LLC, and the deceased owner of the building, the estate of Dominic T. Galu, Sr. Staedler alleged premises liability and violations of the Building Code. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the straight staircase that leads from the front door of Staedler’s apartment to the sidewalk was comprised of the bottom three stairs made of brick and the remaining staircase made of painted wood. Counsel also contended that instead of one continuous handrail, the wood stairs had a wooden handrail and the brick stairs had a separate metal handrail. In addition, counsel contended that the rise and the run of the stairs were not completely uniform, in that the stairs sloped slightly down, with the treads being 10-inches instead of 11-inches, causing the lower stairs to have worn paint from the nosing of the treads. All of these problems existed at the area where the biomechanical engineers agreed the fall initiated. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel argued that the non-continuous handrail, coupled with the downward sloping, short treads, and irregular rise and run of the stairs caused the fall. However, defense counsel noted that the plaintiff was unable to find any prior complaints, , or notice of violations about the staircase at the property where the fall happened. Defense counsel also noted that the plaintiff was also unable to find any prior complaints, , or notice of violations for staircases at any of the defendants’ other properties. Defense counsel argued that the fall happened as a result of Staedler’s own negligence. Counsel contended that Staedler was intoxicated at the time of the accident and produced medical records showing that Staedler had a blood alcohol level of .321, as well as signs of intoxication as noted by various witnesses. Thus, defense counsel contended that Staedler was an alcoholic and that her intoxication, and the fact that she was in a hurry to get to the San Francisco 49ers football game, contributed to the accident. Counsel also contended that the longtime tenants in the other units, including a family with young children and an older tenant, never complained or had trouble with the staircase at the subject property. Counsel further pointed out that Staedler had managed to move her furniture into the apartment without a problem or complaint. In addition, defense counsel noted that no tenants, at any time, had ever complained of having difficulty with, or concerns about, the stairs and that the defendants never had reports of people actually falling on the stairs in the 56 years that they had owned the property., Immediately after her fall, Staedler was taken by ambulance to San Francisco General Hospital, in San Francisco. She suffered a bicondylar tibial plateau fracture, which injured her anterior tibial artery and caused her to develop compartment syndrome. Her front tooth also broke off during the fall and went through her upper lip. Staedler also suffered a fractured nose, two black eyes, a slight concussion, and a swollen spinal cord. In addition, she damaged her left shoulder, fractured her clavicle, and suffered a bulging lumbar disc resulting in lumbar facet arthropathy. As for her damaged shoulder, X-rays revealed that Staedler had a dislocated left shoulder and a clavicle fracture. Staedler’s shoulder was relocated and her left upper extremity was placed in a splint. However, she also required a number of other surgical procedures to save the function in her left leg, including external fixation of her left bicondylar tibial plateau fracture and decompression fasciotomies. This entailed inserting pins to an external device to keep the leg straight and allow the bones to heal, as well as cutting open the skin to relieve the pressure caused by the compartment syndrome. Staedler also had 21- to 40-centimeters of skin debrided, a partial closure of her fasciotomies, and a vacuum-assisted closure of a wound, which was then irrigated once again. Subcutaneous tissue was then debrided and a 20-centimeter fasciotomy wound was repaired and the external fixator was adjusted. Staedler eventually required open reduction and internal fixation, whereby hardware and nearly 21 screws were installed in her knee to keep her leg together and provide support. On Feb. 13, 2012, Staedler was transferred to a rehabilitation center on a different floor of San Francisco General Hospital, where she continued to receive physical therapy and observation for her . By mid-March 2012, she was released from the hospital and returned home. She then received in-home assistance from Health at Home caregivers from March 19, 2012 through April 11, 2012. Health at Home provided caregivers with different expertise to serve Staedler’s particular needs, including a medical social worker, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a nursing assistant, and a home health aide. The caregivers helped Staedler fulfill basic activities of daily living, including bathing, dressing, using the restroom, eating, and exercising. However, Health at Home informed Staedler that it would only be able to provide assistance for 30 days, after which she would be on her own. As a result, relegated to a wheelchair and dependent on others for assistance, Staedler decided to stay with friends, temporarily, until she was able to take care of herself. She also underwent periodic checkups at the hospital. Uninsured and unable to pay for additional treatment, Staedler has been taking care of her own physical therapy since mid-2012, exercising to lose weight and regain strength in her leg. Staedler was unable to work for an entire year and, starting in February 2013, began working one day a week as a bartender at one of her previous employers. However, since she is unable to work more as a bartender due to the physical limitations imposed by her injured leg, she also works as a manager at a different bar, where she earns considerably less than she earned before the accident. Thus, Staedler sought recovery of past and future economic damages for her medical expenses and loss of earnings. She also sought recovery of non-economic damages for her past and future pain and suffering.
Superior Court of San Francisco County, San Francisco, CA

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