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Suit filed against landlord in fall

June 15, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A $3.5 million lawsuit has been filed by a woman whose infant daughter fell three stories from the window of a Martinsburg apartment two years ago, according to court records.

Jennifer Ranay Butts of Martinsburg claims her 4-year-old daughter, Megan Marie Mills, was permanently injured after she fell out of an open window on the third floor of a building at 733 1/2 Winchester Avenue, according to a lawsuit filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

"(Megan) suffered severe head injuries," said Joseph Cordell, the Martinsburg attorney who filed the lawsuit.

The girl received a fractured skull in the fall and spent five weeks in the hospital, Cordell said.

The lawsuit was filed against the managers of the property, Michael and Jeanette Smith of Hedgesville, W.Va., and the owners of the property, William J. Thomas and Margot L. Thomas of Alexandria, Va.

None of the defendants could be reached for comment on the lawsuit.

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Butts claims she had asked for screens in her apartment on "numerous occasions" but said the screens were never installed, according to court records.

The lawsuit claims the landlords and property owners were negligent and violated state and local codes by not placing screens in the apartment windows, according to the court records.

Warm temperatures on June 18, 1997, required Butts to open the apartment windows for ventilation purposes and the unprotected windows allowed Mills to fall out of the window, accoding to the suit.

Mills, who was 2 years old at the time of the fall, struck several roof overhangs before landing on the concrete behind the apartment building, a Martinsburg firefighter said at the time of the incident.

Mills was taken in critical condition to Fairfax INOVA Hospital in Fairfax, Va.

"She's already had $300,000 in medical bills, and that amount will go up with long-term care," Cordell said.

The lawsuit seeks $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

No trial date had been set for the case.

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