Child Window Fall Wrongful Death Case Settles for $9.475 million
In June of 2016, the Kulkarni family moved to the Water's Edge Apartment Complex in Foster City. Their unit was on the third floor at the end of a common enclosed hallway with floor-to-ceiling windows.
While living at Water's Edge, the family's youngest child would watch garbage trucks picking up trash at the property. The large trucks fascinated Krish, and he enjoyed watching the men work by looking out the apartment patio window.
On August 11th, Krish thought a garbage truck was driving by and pointed at the apartment door, indicating that he wanted to go into the hallway.
His mother opened the door to show Krish that there were no garbage trucks. Upon opening the door, Krish bolted with hands outstretched towards the hallway window. When he got to the window, he put his hands against the screen. The screen popped out, and Krish fell three stories to the concrete walkway below.
Before Krish fell, the Kulkarni family had never seen the windows open and had no reason to suspect the windows were dangerous. Krish's mother did not know that the window was wide open and could not react in time. She saw the entire tragedy unfold.
Emergency first responders arrived within minutes. Their video captured the inconsolable mother crying and pleading for Krish's life. Krish died later that day at a local children's hospital.
Through extensive written discovery and depositions by the plaintiffs' counsel, it was learned that the building was constructed in the 1970s as an adult-only complex. It was not designed for families with children.
When The Sobrato Organization, LLC, purchased the building decades later, RSS Architecture was hired in 2014-2015 to design a remodel. The RSS design called for removing old aluminum low-sill windows in the hallways and replacing them with a new set of low-sill windows that also opened from the bottom upwards. BKB Construction was hired by RSS Architecture and Sobrato to complete the remodel.
The defendants installed "window safety locks" that limited how far the windows could open to remedy the large, low sill windows opened from the bottom up. The windows could only be opened three inches when operated properly. However, tenants were able to override the window lock devices and fully open windows. On the day of Krish's death, a tenant had overridden the safety locks and left the window wide open.
Deposition testimony established that the property management company knew that tenants were regularly overriding the safety locks and leaving the windows wide open. Woodmont admitted that it was aware that the open windows exposed young children and pets to the risk of falling from the windows, but they did not instruct tenants to stop overriding the locks.
Following Krish's death, the ineffective window locks were removed by the building owner and replaced with locks that could not be opened more than three inches under any circumstance. The plaintiffs contended that these new locks were the only safe and reasonable locks to prevent death and injury to children.
The plaintiffs also alleged that RSS Architecture was negligent in selecting replacement windows. The plaintiffs alleged that fixed bottom high sill windows could have been used so that window locks would not be necessary instead of a low-sill that opened from the bottom up.
The plaintiffs also alleged that BKB Construction was negligent in installing the windows by ignoring a safe window design, which calls for higher sills or increased protection from falls.
The defendants asserted the affirmative defense of "completed and accepted doctrine." They rejected all liability because the building owner had inspected and accepted their work after completion and was aware of the danger posed to children. Ultimately the architect and contractor agreed to mediation and settlement before the completed and accepted doctrine defense was tested before the court.
The plaintiffs also alleged that Woodmont, as the property manager, and Sobrato as the owner, were liable for Krish's death. Plaintiffs' counsel alleged that they were aware of the danger of open windows and that tenants were overriding the window safety locks, but did nothing to address the problem.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs reached a $9,475,000 mediated settlement with the defendants. The property owner defendants, The Sobrato Organization, LLC, and SI XVII, LLC, agreed to pay $4,000,000. The property manager, Woodmont Real Estate Services, agreed to also pay $4,000,000. The contractor defendants, BKB Construction LP and BKB Construction Management LLC, agreed to pay $1,000,000, while RSS Architecture Inc agreed to pay $475,000.
The Sobrato and Woodmont defendants also agreed to non-monetary terms that concerned better safety, window disclosures and warnings to prevent future tragedies.