In July 2014, a 35 year old mother had moved with her young boys to a 2 bedroom second floor apartment building in an apartment complex in St. Louis County. The apartment had an outdoor balcony, with a railing, that the family could access from the kitchen. Shortly after moving in the woman noticed an infestation of bees located in the door threshold on the balcony. There were hundreds of bees and it was a danger to the family. The woman used several cans of Raid to eliminate the problem and complained to the property manager repeatedly, but the apartment complex failed to take care of the problem. On the morning of August 8th, she dropped off with the property manager a “move in” inspection sheet which she had filled out again requesting that the property manager take care of the problem. Specifically, she wrote: “Bee hive in door threshold to deck, I’ve gone through 2 cans of Raid killing approximately 400 bees but I’m still getting attacked. May need exterminator??” She received no help from the landlord despite this notice.
On the evening of August 8th, she was out on the balcony and was attacked by the bees causing her to backpedal against the balcony railing and flip over the railing landing on the concrete pavement 18 feet below. She had a broken right clavicle in her shoulder and fractures to her pelvis. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she spent 8 days and had an open reduction internal fixation surgical procedure to repair the broken clavicle. She was in an enormous amount of pain, had no health insurance and lost her job because of her injuries. Most importantly she could not take care of her children. While her injuries have healed for the most part, she still has ongoing problems due to the broken bones and severe injuries.
The apartment complex initially refused to accept responsibility for the incident, even denying there was actually a bee infestation. The woman then turned to Kevin Sullivan at Sauter Sullivan for help. A thorough investigation was done and a maintenance man was identified who was aware of the bee infestation and the attempts to get rid of it before the fall. She also had posted pictures of hundreds of bees in a pool of Raid on her Facebook page which were gathered as evidence. The written “move in” sheet she had dropped off was located and used as evidence.
The Sauter Sullivan firm also determined that the railing height itself was dangerous as it was not at an adequate height to protect somebody from going over it. The firm argued that if the railing had been at a safe height, the client would not have gone over it and been injured. The sole purpose of a balcony railing is to protect against someone falling off the balcony. The insurance company for the apartment complex denied the woman’s claim and refused to compensate her for her injuries and damages. Sauter Sullivan filed a lawsuit in St. Louis County on the woman’s behalf. The case was ultimately settled for $205,000 which amounted to fair and just compensation for this woman.