The fourth-floor balcony 
that collapsed in 2014

After a fire escape collapsed in Center City Philadelphia in January 2014, killing one young man and injuring two other people, Kline & Specter attorneys not only filed suit on behalf of the victims, they pressed for reforms to mandate stricter maintenance and inspections of the structures.

That effort produced results with the recent enactment of an ordinance to require that all fire escapes in the city be inspected by July 1, 2017 and then be re-inspected at least every five years thereafter. The measure stipulates that the independent inspections be performed by a licensed structural engineer.

In pushing for the legislation after the death of Albert Suh, 22, Shanin Specter had taken to the news media to decry the city’s lack of proper inspection requirements. “This is something that needs to be addressed and addressed now,” Specter told 6ABC Action News.

Reports by Action News noted that Philadelphia had no requirement that fire escapes undergo inspections, no matter the age of the structures, and that the fire escape that claimed Suh’s life had not been inspected for at least 12 years.

Dominic Guerrini, a partner at Kline & Specter, testified before a City Council committee and questioned why Philadelphia had not adopted the 2012 International Fire Code. Guerrini noted that the code, among other things, required inspections be conducted every five years.

“The City of Philadelphia has taken a big step forward to protect its citizens by requiring that fire escapes be regularly inspected,” Specter said recently. “Regrettably, this has come too late for Albert Suh."

Kline & Specter represented the family of Albert Suh and also Laura O’Brien, who broke her back after the fire escape landing at Suh’s Center City apartment collapsed, sending them hurtling 40 feet to the ground. Both lawsuits resulted in confidential settlements.