Monday, June 21, 2010

Slumlord Keith Reitman Sued Over Child Falling From Window At His "Ugly Ass Chocolate Brown Building" (Third Child To Fall From A Reitman Building)

Contributed photo, blog post by John Hoff

Slumlord Keith Reitman, whose ownership of the "ugly ass chocolate brown building" has been often mentioned by this blog, is now being sued over a child falling from one of the windows at the building in question, listed as 1411 West Broadway in the lawsuit. A quick review of the case file reveals interesting details of the Reitman slumlord empire and previous incidents involving children falling from the windows of a different building owned by Keith Reitman.

The case, which was filed by the parent of a minor child, is titled as follows...

Stacy Shaffer, individually, and as parent and natural guardian of (name withheld by Johnny Northside) vs. Keith Reitman. It is Hennepin County Civil Case 27-CV-09-23991.

The case contends that a toddler in question plunged through a "stapled on" window screen on the second story of the ugly ass chocolate brown building. (That colorful term is not actually used in the lawsuit, however, but it's pretty clear that's the building in question, the crappy-looking one which so many members of the community have asked Reitman to spiff up, but no spiff has been forthcoming and Johnny Northside blog publicly asks WHERE IS OUR RIGHTFUL SPIFF?!) The child received "internal head injuries" as a result.

According to contentions in the lawsuit file, this is the third child to fall from the window of a building owned by slumlord Keith Reitman, who apparently admitted in deposition that two other children fell from windows at 1900 Portland Avenue, which he owned until 2004, according to online city property records.

A professional engineer who examined the fateful window at issue in the Shaffer lawsuit called the window "jerrybuilt." However, Reitman's attorneys (Ted Waldeck and Peter Lind) deny Reitman is responsible for the injury to the child, saying as follows:

"(The Plaintiff is) contending, without support, that Mr. Reitman breached a promise to repair the window screen and in so doing contributed to the accident at issue."

It should be noted that Reitman's liability is alleged to be CONTRIBUTORY. In other words, Reitman is alleged to be PARTLY responsible for the child falling from the jerrybuilt, stapled together, piece-of-crap window screen. Shaffer alleges that some "white guy" climbed up on a ladder and installed the window screen after she asked for a screen--versus no screen at all--because the apartment was hot and she wanted to have some windows open. Shaffer also says she asked if the screen would be "reinforced with wood" but was told words to the effect it was "good enough." The child in question was playing--slipped from attention and control for just a moment--and plunged through the jerrybuilt screen.

On the other hand--as the defense mentions over and over--screens are not safety devices made to hold the weight of children. Accidents like this happen ALL THE TIME. On an objective and speculative note, Johnny Northside blog can't help but ask: should window screens be made out of more sturdy stuff like Kevlar mesh? I mean, if kids are plunging through window screens ALL THE TIME, isn't there a way to address that with some clever technological fix?

I'm just throwing that out there...

In my editorial opinion--and it is, admittedly, strongly influenced by Reitman's stubborn intransigence on the issue of beautifying his "ugly ass chocolate brown building"--Reitman deserves to pay through the nose for this lawsuit. If I were a landlord like Keith Reitman, and ONE child plunged through a window screen, then I would go about replacing and reinforcing every screen on all my properties. God forbid it should EVER happen again. God forbid I should be found blameworthy in any way for--good lord--harm to a child.

Yet this is the THIRD child who has plunged from a window at a Reitman property. Not the SECOND but the THIRD. I say throw the book at Keith Reitman. Some nice trim work on the ugly ass chocolate brown building could make me soften my opinion, but I don't see THAT happening any time short of somebody else owning the property.

The lawsuit also mentions that Reitman is 58 years old and moved to the Twin Cities from Chicago in 1971. The lawsuit pointedly mentions the number of properties he owns which are low-income rentals. One is tempted to write down the first letter from each paragraph of the lawsuit to see if it spells out "slumlord," because the lawsuit says everything EXCEPT that word directly, but it's difficult to see how a much stronger inference can be drawn.

The case is scheduled for a jury trial at 9 AM in the court of Judge Robert A. Blaeser, the same judge who recently did such a fine job dealing with Peter "Spanky Pete" Rickmyer. Shaffer is represented by Paul E. Godlewski of Schwebel, Goetz and Siben.


la_vie_en_rose said...

I know all too well how difficult it can be to keep an eye on a toddler, but you have to do it. If there's danger to be found, they'll get into it. It wouldn't matter if the window had material that allowed it a weight capacity of one ton, my children are taught to stay away from the window since we're an upstairs apartment because I don't want them to get hurt.

I already know how fun it is to take a tumble down a flight of stairs; I don't want the same to happen to them.

Anonymous said...

I don't like slumlords at all and yes he is responsible for maintaining his property but where was the parent? I have a 2 story home (that I own) and 3 children. I have always been extremely careful with the windows on the 2nd floor. We switched them around so that the screens were on the top and the window didn't open from the bottom. Even though my youngest is 4 we still have the windows like this for safety. I would put the blame on the parent first and then the slumlord. If his property insurance isn't covering everything then I can see sueing for further expenses but is the parent just sue happy? Some people just want to take advantage of a situation and make money (just like the slumlord). Overall, parents need to be more responsible.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with Rose and Anon847. I manage rental housing as well, it is extremely well-kept and we have a gazillion inspections per year by every govt entity you can name. Yet, it never fails, at least once or twice per summer I will actually catch some small kids in the act of either taking out the screens and climbing onto the sloped roofs, or hanging willy-nilly out of the open window where they have knocked the screen out.

I remember getting a hysterically panicked phone call from a resident saying "My 2 year old just fell out of the window!!" and I immediately hung up and ran over to her place. Turns out the 2 year old fell out of the first floor living room window which was about 2 feet off the ground. The child was not hurt, the screen was less than 1 month old as the building had a major renovation with new windows and screens. When I asked how the 2 year old got out of the window and where the mom was, she said she was upstairs and admitted she had fallen asleep.

I know Reitman has crappy buildings with residents that are probably a little sue happy. This is all the more reason he should be on his Ps & Qs. But seriously, where was this particular 2 year olds parents?

Your Eyedea said...

He looks creepy. I would NOT allow my kids near him or near his nasty un kept property. Sorry...

On another note. People are sue happy cause their lazy, want everything handed to them, and if that means throwing their kid out a window then so be it.

On my last note. You know damn well how hard it is to keep an eye on kids when you have five of them running around along with ten other kids that aren't yours and you don't know where their parents are.

I know how to solve this...quit your job and watch your kids ALL DAY, But who wants to do that? I tend to agree with rose :
"I know all too well how difficult it can be to keep an eye on a toddler, but you have to do it. If there's danger to be found, they'll get into it."

Now what I don't understand is the lack of safety in the house in the first place.. cause if there is danger to be found, they WILL get into it.. And I got the scars to prove that point.

Anonymous said...

I just had all the screens professionally replaced in a rental home I own. I'm talking removing the entire screen frame and having the screen removed and replaced with heavy duty screen. There is NO WAY this would prevent a toddler from falling through the window if they fell into the screen. Apart from nailing the frame in and that is likley against fire code I don't see any screen being used for the retention of a child.

Hans said...

I just can't see the judge awarding much to the parent in this case. I have no children but I still know that you aren't supposed to leave a window open if it is possible for a child to get to it... especially a 2nd floor window.

Screens are only designed to keep insects and birds out... even if the screen in question was brand new and properly installed the child still could have fallen through.

This is tragic, but the onus is on the parent to prevent access to open windows. Landlords are not responsible for child proofing windows... even if their building is ugly ass choco brown.

Hopefully this accident can serve as a public service announcement to parents everywhere... supervise your children around open windows.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he should just plexiglass all the windows to prevent breakage and falls?

Your Eyedea said...

Or maybe they don't care that their child could fall out of the window...

just a thought....

Anonymous said...


All your tenants would burn up in a fire with your super screens, but they wouldn't fall out the window.

la_vie_en_rose said...

Anon 3:31, I know you're trying to be amusing, but plexiglassing the windows? Really? There's no central air in these buildings, so are you trying to have the lot of us die from heat stroke?

Johnny Northside! said...

To Anonymous: even a Kevlar screen could be CUT in an emergency but, yeah, there's a trade off, isn't there? Definitely times when you need to get the screen out of the way and go out the window.

To La Vie En Rose: that poster at 3:31 is probably alluding to a stink this blog was making about certain Plexiglass windows at a different location, and the post may have little to do with the issues at hand.

Ultimately, I tend to agree with the basis of the lawsuit: Reitman is at least PARTIALLY responsible for the accident because the screen was a piece of crap. Clearly, the presence of a screen versus NO screen versus a GOOD screen versus a PIECE OF CRAP screen is going to have an influence upon whether a child goes through a window. I just don't buy the "screens aren't designed for this" argument completely. These are smart lawyers and they wouldn't file a lawsuit with no basis...unlike SOME lawyers I could name. But won't. Not quite yet.

The question I have is HOW MUCH is Reitman responsible? A mere 5 percent? More like 30 percent? I do respect the "Reitman is not at all responsible" argument and how it's articulated but, at the end of the day, I don't think the law will go that way.

Johnny Northside! said...

Here's an informative article on the safety risks of window screens:

Here's an article which talks about a lawsuit SHOCKINGLY SIMILAR to the case involving Reitman where the family got a settlement of, oh gee, $2.5 million.

No, based on what I'm reading I can't see the court failing to shake money out of Reitman for this. The TWO OTHER FALLS INVOLVING CHILDREN and the window screen being a piece of crap will, at the end of the day, mean a lot. If the window wasn't crap and was top-oh-the-line, secured, with SAFETY STICKERS in place, then I'd say "Reitman is faultless and blameless" but the fact is the window is indeed a piece of crap and there were those two other falls.

Anton said...

I did some research on Kevlar window screens. Couldn't actually find any I could buy. However there seems to be shutters available.

So you are seriously faulting all Minnesota landlords for failure to equip their windows with screens built for HURRICANES? On the basis of this and your attitude towards this topic i'd say plexiglass doesn't seem that unreasonable.

Just A Landlord said...

Mr Hoff,

I saved up for three years to purchase my first rental home. I keep up on all repairs and improve the property each year. I charge market rate rents and am probably too flexible with my tenants on the timely payment of the rent. For my efforts and trouble I earn $2000.00 per year in profit. Your attitude towards those who rent property to others to live in is discouraging. It seems that you simply don't like Mr Reitman and are not advocating that anytime someone falls out a window on a property they do not own the owner is at fault. It is attitudes like that that cause homelessness and gentrification due to increased rental rates and insurance costs.

The Fifth Column said...

I believe that a "Minor Child" is a bit redundant. I would think that someone who considers themselves "media" would do a better job of writing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article John. However "Security Screens" much like the Kevlar seem to indicate that they resiste knives and thus may be a fire hazard. This is especially important as multi unit buildings are inspected by the Fire Department. Should we perhaps require parents to keep windows closed to 4 inches in all child bedrooms. I'd also be ok requiring landlords to nail stops at the 4 inch mark in all child bedrooms. Here's a quote from the article in the url you mentioned.

"Security window screens, which are stronger than insect screens, can help to prevent forced entry, providing home security while still permitting ventilation. Made of steel rather than fiberglass or aluminum, security screens can be coated to resemble regular insect screening; however, the tougher material resists knives and the weight of a person trying to force entry through an open screened window. As with insect screens, it is important that security screens are hinged and latched to ensure emergency exit. "

Mason said...


I agree the landlord should be liable and certainly has neglected his responsibilities. And yes, he should have screens that resist some pressure.

I am curious though, have you ever seen window screens with safety stickers? Do you think they would have made any difference?

If a parent is incapable of recognizing the risk of a shoddy screen and a toddler, would they pay attention to the sticker? And if the landlord is responsible enough to put in quality screens, would you still expect the sticker? I've never ever seen one.

Anonymous said...

That is the perfect solution. Rental inspections should involve inspecting screens. For any bedroom that is not a "master bedroom", the screens should have a X in duct tape. The color would be preferrably yellow or orange or green but something is better than nothing. Truth be told it is likley that an X in duct tape would possibly be strong enough to ensure no failure of the screen would occur.

Anonymous said...

To Just A Landlord,

Too bad the speculative venture which you had to save up for a whooping 3 years to buy isn't panning out as lucratively as you would like.

Get real! Did you seriously think that when you paid pennies on the dollar for that property that there weren't some risk involved? Or did you think that you were so smart that the government was just going to keep forking over cash for you to warehouse poor people?

I am sure that the owner occupants living around your cash cow who are actually trying to improve the community are equally disappointed in your investment.

Even if we were to believe that you got into slum-lording as a humanitarian venture as you imply; what gives you the right to site gentrification as an affect of improving the property and providing decent living conditions?

Are you saying that too much investment into the property might increase it's value to the point at which you could only rent to rich people?

It seems to me what you are advocating is maintaining an unsafe and dilapidated environment so that your pitiful tenants can stay in their slum.

Jack said...

I suspect they will settle before trial.
The odds of a plaintiff winning at trial are 2:1 against. Godlewski knows this, and unless the child suffered substantial injuries he would be smart to settle. His chances are worse at appeal, one chance in 12.
The only reason the Sieben firm files these suits is they know they will be settled prior to trial. The last one I worked on settled for $5,000.

grammar police said...

fifth column:

The phrase "minor child" is not redundant at all. It is specific. Everybody on this planet, regardless of age, is somebody's child. A minor child is somebody's child that is under 18 (as opposed to an adult child).

you wrote:
"I believe that a "Minor Child" is a bit redundant."

Well... I believe that your sentence is structured incorrectly. What you're saying is that the child itself is redundant. That doesn't make sense.

Perhaps you meant "I believe that the phrase "Minor Child" is a bit redundant."

Either way... you might want to check yourself before you start critiquing John Hoff's grammar.

On another note, 'just a landlord' sounds like a pretty nice guy... but I'll bet he doesn't own as many properties as Keith Reitman. It's also interesting that he says John is NOT advocating that "anytime someone falls out a window... ...the owner is at fault."

"Attitudes" don't cause homelessness and gentrification. Rapidly rising property values could lead to gentrification, but last time I checked property values are still much lower than they were 3 years ago. Nomi has a LONG way to go before gentrification is even on the radar.

Anonymous said...

Maintaining a property in a normal way is not going to cause gentrification. Over regulation of the property will increase rents as a landlord will always pass along any tax or fee or regulation cost to the tenant. So if we are going to require all rental housing to have mythical kevlar screens the tenants will have to bear the cost in the form of higher rent. Same goes for lawsuit abuse if judges hold landlords to a standard such that screens are required to bear the weight of the child. As insurance premiums rise as a result so too will the rent. Those who cannot afford the new price will be required to move thus gentrification.

Anonymous said...

What the hell is with the self righteous asses that have annointed themselves grammar police? Do everyone a favor and go back and finish your schooling and get your degree you f****** better than thou wannabes.Spend less time trying to correct somebody you do not even know and more time training in the field of humility.People like you make me want to barf in your mouth....correct that now,wannabe!

Anonymous said...

It figures that this guy is from Chicago.Our city started turning into one of the farthest known suburbs attached to the Greater Metropolitan Area Of Cook County- Shitcago.That's right,Shitcago, as in a city in which we keep swimming in the effects of receiving their reject Landlord and thug impersonators.Reitman is a prime example of the pukes that are ruining our city.Shamika the wonder dog had it right when she said that thugs comes in all shades.... they just employ different tactics.The Apocalypse must be near if i am agreeing with the wonder dog.Boathead stands accused and amused.

Anonymous said...

"Minor Child" is too redundant despite the fact that many parents incorrectly call their 30 year old their child. See below:

A child (plural: children) is a human between the stages of born and puberty. The legal definition of "child" generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority. "Child" may also describe a relationship with a parent or authority figure, or signify group membership in a clan, tribe, or religion; it can also signify being strongly affected by a specific time, place, or circumstance, as in "a child of nature" or "a child of the Sixties."[1]

Anonymous said...

Actually, the one advantage that franchises have over independently operated businesses is that national "brands" have a reputation to protect, and thus have some motivation to be responsive to citizen complaints: when an individual franchise location becomes a problem property, the franchise can be pulled, if necessary, to protect the company's national reputation.

Extreme slumlord-rights activists like William McGaughey and Keith Reitman, by demanding that residents should never have any recourse to address problem properties, and that slumlords should have no responsibilities whatsoever, are creating a situation where franchises are the only safe options. At least with a national franchise, there is someone in a corporate office somewhere who understands that it isn't in the company's best interest if all the local residents are getting killed from gunshots coming from the business. Certainly a much higher standard than we can expect from our ultra-right-wing slumlord-rights activists!

Johnny Northside! said...

Some kind of settlement seems to have been reached in this case, though there is a motion hearing in April.

04/22/2011 Motion Hearing (9:00 AM) (Judicial Officer Blaeser, Robert A.)

Hope to get more details at some point in the not-so-distant future.