Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 27, 2012

Deck collapse results in lawsuit

Cases moved to U.S. District Court

ASHLAND — A 2010 patio deck collapse at an Ashland home that injured eight has resulted in the filing of a federal lawsuit.

The suit is actually a consolidation of two civil actions filed last year in Boyd Circuit Court. The cases were moved to U.S. District Court earlier this month, according to court records.

Defendants in the suit include John and Kelly Conley, the tenants in the rental home where the collapse occurred; the unknown builder of the deck and State Farm Insurance. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction, the City of Ashland Assisted Housing Authority and several city housing officials are named as third-party defendants.

The plaintiffs in the case James Johnson, Jeffrey Ellison, Rebecca Johnson, Julie Carter Killin, Mary Parks and Mark Westmoreland, all of who allege they suffered injuries in the Oct. 11, 2010, incident which occurred in the 2300 block of Moore Street.

The incident occurred about 5 p.m. According to the Ashland Police Department, the group was enjoying a cookout when the deck gave way.

The treated-lumber deck was positioned eight to 10 feet above the ground. Injuries suffered in the mishap ranged from minor to moderate and included abrasions and possible fractures, the APD said at the time.

 The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who are represented by attorneys Garis Pruitt and David Latherow, allege the Conleys were negligent and contributed to the collapse by failing to conduct “reasonable inspections” that would have revealed support structure and construction flaws; failing to have “professional consultation” in the design and construction of the patio and failing to use “ordinary care for preventive periodic maintenance” of the structure.

The suit also maintains “negligent techniques and materials” were used in the construction of the deck, including wood that was improperly sealed, which caused it to rot and lose its lose-bearing strength and played a “significant part” in the failure of the structure.

“An ordinary inspection” by the Conleys would have revealed the shabby condition of the deck, which could and should have been remedied prior to the collapse, the suit states.

The plaintiffs also alleged HUD, along with the state and city housing agencies, failed to prevent the mishap by not conducting regular inspections of the property. U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey has filed a motion seeking to have HUD dismissed from the action.

The defendants are seeking compensatory damages for lost wages, medical expenses and physical and emotional pain an suffering, and punitive damages.

Claims made in civil lawsuits state only one side of an issue.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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