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$2.8M settlement for iron railing failure

$2.8M settlement for iron railing failure
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Property manager pays after trio falls off balcony at Woodridge apartment
BY JORDYN REILAND

Law Bulletin staff writer

Three family members who fell from an apartment balcony have settled a negligence case against the property manager for $2.8 million.

Plaintiffs Erika Martinez, Ivan Martinez and Javier Martinez sued Dynasty Properties Inc., the property manager for the Woodridge apartment complex where Erika Martinez lived.

They agreed to settle on Feb. 1, their attorney Christopher M. Norem of Parente & Norem P.C. said. He expects Cook County Circuit Judge Kathy M. Flanagan to enter the settlement at a Feb. 21 hearing.

The lawsuit, filed in December 2016, alleged that the property managers didn’t regularly inspect Erica Martinez’s balcony and notice when the railing attachments to the building started to rust and corrode.

The lawsuit alleged negligence,

premises liability and willful and wanton conduct.

On Sept. 28, 2014, Erika Martinez, 28, her brother Javier, 36, and her cousin Ivan, 26, were on her third-floor balcony when one of them leaned against the wrought iron railing and it collapsed, causing them to fall two stories.

All three sustained injuries from the fall, Norem said.

Erika fractured her spine at the fifth thoracic vertebra, but did not need surgery; Javier broke a bone in his left arm and needed surgery; and Ivan had lower back injuries that didn’t need surgery.

Norem said several of the balconies at the apartment complex had wrought iron railings that were severely rusted. Some of the railings were detached from the building in some areas.

“This had taken years and years and years and years of neglect to happen,” Norem said.

The village of Woodridge adopted the International Property Maintenance Code and the International Building Code, regulations that provide minimum maintenance requirements for buildings.

Norem said it is common for small cities or villages to adopt already existing codes instead of creating their own.

The defense, in a motion to dismiss filed in February 2017, argued that the adopted codes were merely “model codes” and could not be brought as issues in this case.

Norem argued the ordinances were enacted and fully adopted by the village to protect residents such as the plaintiffs from the injuries they sustained.

The plaintiffs alleged Dynasty Properties violated building codes in several ways, including when they didn’t take measures to protect the guardrail from rusting, didn’t fix the guardrail when it started to rust and did not repair or replace the guardrail when it became loose.

In March 2017, Flanagan denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss and allowed the case to continue.

Norem said Dynasty Properties acknowledged injuries occurred during discovery, but contended they did not rise to the level of financial compensation the plaintiffs were seeking.

The parties mediated the case before former Cook County circuit judge Dennis J. Burke of ADR Systems of America LLC on Jan. 16.

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Christopher M. Norem

Norem said the property had $3 million insurance policy. He said he made a time-limited demand of $2.95 million to the defense that would expire on Feb. 16.

The attorneys negotiated on their own and came to an agreement of $2.8 million.

Erica Martinez will receive $1.6 million, Ivan Martinez will get $950,000 and Javier Martinez will receive $250,000.

Dynasty Properties was represented by Ryan S. Showalter of Urgo & Nugent LLC. He could not be reached for comment.

The case is Erika Martinez, et al., v. Dynasty Properties, Inc., 16 L 6192.jreiland@lawbulletinmedia.com

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