Fall From Campus Building Roof Kills UVA Student

The University of Virginia community was shocked Monday, March 28, 2011, when it learned of the death of a UVA liberal arts and science student who fell to his death from the roof of the school's Physics Building. Nineteen-year-old Thomas W. Gilliam IV lost his life in an incident campus police are calling a "tragic accident" that did not involve alcohol use or foul play.

Each year, dozens of college students suffer serious injuries or get killed when they accidently fall out of dorm residence windows or slip off campus building roofs. Those accidents are rare when looked at from the perspective that more than 18 million people attend colleges and university classes in the United states. On a personal level, though, each of those accidents represents a life-changing event for the teen or young adult and the victim' family.

My colleague John C. recently wrote about the responsibility schools of higher education have to protect resident and commuter students when they are on campus. That responsibility includes taking reasonable steps to restrict access to building roofs, secure windows and balconies and keep stairways and sidewalks in good repair so people do not find themselves at risk for slip and fall injuries.

An investigation into the circumstances that led to Gilliam's death is ongoing. If safety lapses are found, UVA should act promptly to correct any deficiencies so a similar tragedy does not recur.

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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