Negligent staff response after head injury at a homeless center?
(Bronx, New York)
I Arrived at a Drop-in Center For the Homeless, in Bronx, New York. I entered the Conference Rm. #1 known to me as the "Back Area," and decided to open the left-most window (as you enter the room), an inch because it was a bit warm. I had also opened the same window, previously over the past weekend after the corridor had been waxed.
There were no signs posted in this conference room that indicated the windows were to remain closed at all times.
As I opened the window, a client known was sitting near me. I said hellp, I'm just going to open the window a little bit. (I said that so she would not complain about it being chilly), she said nothing.
I opened the window and looked towards her as I was returning back to the seat where I had left my laptop and jacket, the window fell out from its tracks and banged me on my head.
I felt a little bit of pain on the top of my head and was surprised and shocked to see what had happened. Fortunately, I was wearing a cap that deflected direct contact with the glass. Out of reflex, I shrugged my shoulders and my hands went up to remove the window from my head.
Another client assisted me with returning the glass back on its tracks partially. The window weighed approximately 40-60 pounds.
I immediately went to report this to the security staff. I first stopped at the office in the corridor, where some employees were and informed them briefly of what had happened. The man I spoke with stated, "you gotta go tell the security desk up front." I went to the security desk up front, and approached the station, the telephone rung as I stepped up to the counter.
I informed the security guard of what happened after he hung up the phone. He stated in a typical aggressive tone: "nobody is supposed to open those windows." I stated "that's the first time that I am hearing of this." "It's the rules," he said Terry never inquired if I was alright nor inquired was I injured, nor asked was anybody else injured. I was anguished by Terry's lack of concern and comments.
Many Clients will testify that that rule is not true. Many will testify that they have opened the windows in the "Back Area" many times.
A couple hours later The Security Staff ("Staff"), at the Drop-in Center failed to post a sign indicating that the left window was defective and not to be opened, under any circumstances. The Staff also failed to post any sign/s to inform the Clients that they were not allowed to open any of the Conference Room's windows under any circumstance.
Approximately 2 AM the following morning, I went to the emergency room at the Bronx VA Medical Center because I experienced more pain in my neck and shoulder area. Enough to give me reason to go.
The doctor, examined with x-rays, MRI, scans, etc. and did not find much. However, I still felt the stiffness in my neck which he stated the MRI revealed "arthritis in the shoulder areas." Now I am not sure if the pain was from the window or if its from the arthritis discovered in the scan.
Is there anything I can do about this? Don't the staff have a responsibility to place warning signs not to open the window? Do they have to pay my medical bills? Thanks for any information you can give.
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ANSWER for "Negligent staff response after head injury at a homeless center?":
Shelton (Bronx, New York):
Fortunately you weren't seriously injured. While you have a right to be upset by Terry's apparent lack of concern for your plight, the "anguish" you experienced doesn't constitute the required "emotional distress" made the basis of a personal injury claim.
If the results of your medical exam, including but not limited to the MRI, would have clearly determined your pain was caused by the damaged window, then you might have had the basis of a personal injury claim against the shelter and the property owner (if different parties). Instead, your medical examination revealed your pain was caused by arthritis.
Whether or not the shelter, it's management, or the property owner had a statutory duty to place warnings signs close to the window would have been wholly determined by the existence of a city, state, or borough statute, ordinance or regulation.
From a "common law" standpoint, it's highly likely the courts would hold the shelter, it's management, and the property owner to a legal "duty of care" to make sure those parties legally on the premises were adequately warned of the dangerous nature of the windows. Moreover, the courts might hold the windows should have been locked at those times when the public had access to them.
In your case, you really don't have enough evidence to connect your pain to the damaged window. Moreover, your pain was diagnosed as a symptom of arthritis. As a result, any personal injury claim you might consider would be weak at best.
Hopefully, the security staff will have learned a lesson and will now take appropriate steps to place warning signs close to the windows, or lock them at appropriate times.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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