$11.6 Million Settlement for Woman Who Fell Through Building Skylight

While visiting with other members of her college a cappella group during an informal gathering at a house in Philadelphia near the University of Pennsylvania, Lorna Bernhoft, a junior at the school, sat on a board across a raised fourth floor skylight and fell through to a staircase below.

She then slid down the stairs and landed on her head, causing massive injuries which left her a paraplegic. The woman, who was 20 years old at the time of the fall, will now receive an $11.6 million settlement in connection with her premises liability case, according to a Nov. 26 story in The Legal Intelligencer.

Bernhoft’s 20-foot fall occurred while she was at the gathering when she apparently sat on a piece of flex board that covered the skylight, according to the story. The incident happened on Oct. 12, 2010.

“Bernhoft’s court papers alleged that the primary defendants, Joseph, Irene and Jennifer Palmer, were reckless in that they covered the skylight with only a piece of flex board and subsequently did nothing to repair the hazardous condition of the floor where the skylight was situated,” the paper reported. “According to the Palmers’ defense papers, the skylight opening was covered with three-fourths-inch plywood and nailed shut during renovations to the building in the 1980s.” In 2012, the Palmers filed a joinder complaint to add previous tenants of the property to the case, which added 14 additional defendants, the paper reported.

“The Palmers’ defense papers alleged that tenants of the property in 2009-10 never reported any removal of the plywood board or existence of hazardous conditions to the Palmers as was a condition of the lease,” according to the paper. The Palmers’ had alleged that they were not liable for the incident because the property was in possession of renters who should have been responsible. Also, they alleged, Bernhoft was under the influence of alcohol with an 0.026 blood alcohol content at the time, as well as having evidence of marijuana in her system, the story reported.

The case was settled with insurers of the landlords and tenants just before it was set to go to trial, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Bernhoft went on to graduate from Stanford University after her devastating injuries and now lives in Boston, the paper reported.

The tragic incident that left Bernhoft seriously injured is a stark reminder of the importance of building maintenance for property owners, tenants and their guests. The board laying over the skylight in this case had apparently been there for some time, and it was never repaired to remove potential dangers, according to the stories.

These kinds of tragic cases can occur when innocent victims are hurt due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a personal injury case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.