Balcony collapse victims sue for negligence, claim another deck failed

Roger and Arlene Guess are still recovering from their injuries that occurred in late May, at the Falls at Hayden Run Condominiums in northwest Columbus. (WSYX/WTTE)

A father and daughter are suing Lifestyle Communities and a condominium association after falling from a collapsed balcony, leaving them barely able to walk.

Roger and Arlene Guess are still recovering from their injuries that occurred in late May, at the Falls at Hayden Run Condominiums in northwest Columbus.

The lawsuit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, alleges at least one other balcony had fallen in their community and the defendants neglected to make the necessary repairs and inform those who live there.

It’s alleged that only 16 small nails measuring 2.5 inches secured the balcony to the home and sunk into the framing a half inch. The lawsuit also stated there are gaps around all of the balcony headers and no siding, allowing water and weather to get in.

“The biggest failure with decks is the attachment of the ledger plate,” deck builder Brian Mechtley said. “It’s an easy thing to do properly and it’s done improperly so often.”

It was determined by the City of Columbus that the nails and lack of lag bolts was the probable cause for the collapse.

Roger Guess suffered two shattered legs, went through several surgeries and is now in rehab. His daughter, Arlene, is recovering from a fractured pelvis, a broken hip and fractured vertebrae. She can’t even go up the stairs.

While a deck should hold six to eight people and roughly 2,400 pounds, this one didn’t. The suit alleges that decks were not checked or repaired sufficiently following at least one other balcony collapse prior to May 30, at the Falls at Hayden Run.

In the previous collapse, the lawsuit said decks were not repaired sufficiently and those that were, had the deck shoved up against the main unit where it was pulling away and lag bolts were installed in a few locations.

“Someone screwed up,” condo owner Maggie McGinty said. “I’m not understanding how that happened.”

Neighbors were upset after the City of Columbus inspected and deemed 156 decks were unsafe. The city no longer has the original blueprints.

An order by the city required the Falls at Hayden Run Condominium Association start making repairs within 30 days. The board hired an engineer and told homeowners via email that it received all bids, selected a contractor and was waiting on city approval.

In a follow-up report, ABC 6/FOX 28 reported on what the engineer found and the repairs needed for the unsafe balconies.

ABC 6 On Your Side Investigates has repeatedly asked, called and attempted to make contact with Lifestyle Communities and the Association. So far, there has been no comment, response, or acknowledgement.

“They should be calling you back and saying we’re doing everything we can to fix these decks,” McGinty said.

A homeowners’ contract stated the association is to maintain the structural portions and exterior of all buildings. It’s yet another reason the Guess’ are suing for negligent design, construction, maintenance and repair, among other things.

The lawsuit claimed Lifestyle Community elected to “use shoddy construction practices on structural components of the buildings to maximize their profit regardless of the safety issues and the risk of serious bodily injury or death.”

In this case, the suit claimed the car parked underneath the deck may have saved Roger and Arlene Guess’ lives.

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