Poor maintenance is being blamed for a bizarre accident in Harlem which ended with one man trapped in a collapsed stairwell and the residents of the “shoddy” building out on the street. On August 30th, 34-year old Charlie Vargas was climbing the defective staircase in a building located at East 104th St. in Harlem when the step under his foot simply crumbled. He fell through the hole that opened up underneath him and lay trapped until rescue workers arrived and were able to lift him out.
Vargas was rushed to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center for observation (including an MRI) while the 38 residents of the apartment building (10 of them children) were told they had to find someplace else to stay until the entire building could be inspected.
While the man suffered bruising, he is expected to make a full recovery. However, the fate of the six-story building has yet to be decided. One resident, interviewed by the ABC local affiliate, said that there had already been complaints about the stairwell but building management had failed to do anything about it.
Indeed, investigative reporters inside the building focused on the visibly damaged stair supports which were heavily rusted and, as one resident put it “falling apart for a long time now.”
The Department of Buildings said that the poor condition of the stairs made the entire building unsafe-residents even said that passing traffic on the street outside makes the building shake. New York staircase accidents like this one can be disastrous. Stairwells provide structural support to the building around them and if a significant portion of the stairway had collapsed, rescue workers may have been responding to building collapse rather than a man trapped in a hole.
When the reporters reached out to the owners of the building, a company based out of San Francisco, they refused to speak until their engineers had inspected the building.
Mr. Vargas could very well bring a personal injury lawsuit against the company for neglecting to maintain the property and ignoring visibly obvious safety issues. Though his injuries were minor, his doctor bills weren’t. The MRI he received alone cost (on average) $2,000. A ride in an ambulance runs at least $700. In addition, Vargas, a security guard, could seek to be reimbursed for lost wages from missed work.
If you or your loved one has suffered an injury because your building owner has repeatedly ignored warning signs, complaints, and failed to properly maintain your apartment, contact a New York apartment complex accident attorney today. Call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel for a free consultation at 646-736-2777 or 212-385-1122 to learn your rights.