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Harlem apartment building stairwell collapses

Last week, several dozen residents of an apartment building in East Harlem had to be evacuated after a man fell through a staircase. The 34-year-old man, who was a resident of the building, suffered injuries in the cave-in and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Residents of the six-story apartment building said they weren't surprised that the staircase caved in. The building, which is located on East 104th Street, is several decades old and residents said the landlord has not responded to complaints over safety concerns.

Video obtained by a local news crew showed that the old staircase appeared to be rusting and decaying. Temporary braces had to be added to the staircase to allow residents to return to their apartments to gather their belongings.

In an interview with the news station, one resident said that the stairs had been falling apart and deteriorating "little by little." The residents said it was fortunate that a child wasn't the one to fall through the staircase, as that could have proved fatal.

Landlords in New York City have a duty to perform routine maintenance on their properties and to make sure that there aren't hazardous conditions that put residents in harm's way, such as dangerous stairwells.

When landlords breach these duties, personal injury lawsuits can result. Generally speaking, property owners can be held responsible for any injury that occurs on the property if negligence or another error was involved.

Typically, an investigation takes place to determine if negligence contributed to an apartment building accident. At this point, it has not been reported if the Harlem stairwell cave-in will be investigated, but the injured man has reportedly hired a personal injury lawyer.

Source: ABC Local, "Man falls through stairs, Harlem building evacuated," Aug. 30, 2013

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