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Family of girl crushed by Tampa apartment gate files wrongful-death suit

Published Oct. 4, 2012

TAMPA — Parents of a 7-year-old girl whose skull was crushed under her apartment complex's fallen gate filed a wrongful-death suit this week against the complex and its management.

In April, the gate at Brookside Apartments at 5008 Sierra Place fell onto Zhanaye Williams, trapping her underneath and causing the head trauma that killed her, according to Tampa police.

Neighbors said she was swinging on the gate, being pushed back and forth by other children while waiting for the school bus.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday by Coretta Williams on behalf of her daughter's estate, the accident was witnessed by her older brother, 9-year-old Christian Williams. The lawsuit said the complex and the management, Franklin Street Apartment Management Services, were responsible for Zhanaye's death because they failed to maintain the premises, correct dangerous conditions, disclose or warn residents and implement procedures to inspect and correct the conditions.

Lawyers called the accident "reasonably foreseeable" and said the complex owed a duty to exercise reasonable care.

Brookside is owned by Barfield Bay Holdings Inc., a Naples-based real estate company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on Brookside in 2009. It said then the troubles stemmed partly from capital improvements, including repairs to its roofs, pool, landscaping, parking lots, laundry rooms and termite-damaged wood. The bankruptcy case ended in 2010.

The four-count suit alleges wrongful death against Brookside and Franklin Street and negligent infliction of bodily injury and emotional distress against both on behalf Zhanaye's brother. Christian Williams "suffered injury and emotional distress from this incident, and his damages and injuries are continuing and permanent in nature," the suit said.