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'Reasonably safe' standard leaves room to raise legal questions

A 20-year-old New York City man is under arrest, charged with murder in the death last month of his 4-year-old brother. According to news reports, the man allegedly flung the child from the roof of the seven-story Brooklyn apartment building where his family lives.

One potential contributing factor to this tragic situation is news that the adult brother is said to suffer from schizophrenia but was not taking prescribed medication. Police sources say the man had no criminal record, but prompted 911 calls in April when he climbed to the roof and sparked concerns he might jump. He also has been hospitalized for his condition, most recently in July. As one police source put it, "this was a chronic problem."

Landlord negligence?

Some legal observers might agree that it is worth asking whether management at the apartment building knew about this tenant family's issues and whether the possibility of harm occurring was foreseeable.

In New York City, rooftop exits on tall buildings are required as a fire safety measure. However, landlords also bear a responsibility in the face of known or anticipated threats to make sure that tenants remain safe. Failure to take reasonable precautions can constitute an act of negligence for which landlords could be liable.

Every case is different and needs analysis from the perspective of available evidence, but questions worth posing would seem to include whether access to the roof was equipped with some form of alarm system to alert property managers to a breach. Another question worth asking is whether there was, or should have been, some means of preventing access to the roof's edge.

When questions of this kind exist, the best way to get trusted answers is to consult a skilled attorney.

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