ABA Journal


Real Estate and Property Law

10 years after fatal Chicago porch collapse, $16.6M case concludes

Jun 24, 2013, 08:00 pm CDT


The real aftermath of this tragedy was to enrich the architects, engineers, and contractors of Chicago beyond their wildest dreams. After 75 idiots crowded onto a small porch designed to hold ten or twelve people, the city changed the building code so that the next bunch of idiots would be protected from their own stupidity. This overreaction cost property owners millions of dollars to reconstruct perfectly adequate porches to absurd specifications.

By lawsailor on 2013 06 28, 3:49 pm CDT

If a porch that held 75 people was "designed to hold" only "ten or twelve," it was just as inherently hazardous - indeed, a trap for the unwary - just as if an aluminum stepladder is designed to hold only 100 pounds. (I know; stepladders may disclose their recommended weight limit, so that couldn't happen. But that's my point - porches aren't warning-labeled.) Not being suitable or safe for the reasonably intended use is a classic basis for tort liability.

As to the amount of insurance coverage, this grim question evokes shades of 9/11. Was the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center two incidents, or one? That question was in litigation for a couple of years. Thank God the insurers and insured came to their senses, after some discovery and expert analysis of the various insurers' slightly differing contractual language, and compromised.

The result (roughly equivalent to a judgment that it was 1.6 incidents) wasn't satisfactory to anyone. Even though the buildings were insured for full value, the insured has fallen far, far short of being able to reconstruct on his own all 8 million square feet to today's standards with his proceeds. But at least the reconstruction plans and projects were finally able to go forward.

By Avon on 2013 06 29, 3:12 am CDT

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