The West Virginia Schools for The Deaf and The Blind are located in Romney.

CHARLESTON - A Cabell County woman has filed a suit against her alma mater, claiming the lack of handrails near steps caused her to fall and break her leg.

Sondra Roach filed a suit Oct. 31 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the West Virginia Schools for The Deaf and The Blind.

According to the suit, Roach, who is deaf, was attending an alumni class reunion at the school in Romney on June 5, 2004. Roach and her friend Barbara Haines were walking across campus from the Secondary Deaf Building to Seaton Hall. The suit says all foot traffic is directed to a set of concrete steps leading to Seaton Hall.

"There are no handrails present on that portion of the steps to which the sidewalk from Secondary Deaf directly leads all pedestrians," the suit says. "The absence of handrails created a very foreseeable dangerous condition on the concrete steps."

Roach claims the steps are also designed in an unusual way, making someone attempting to climb them walk almost sideways.

According to the suit, Roach and Haines began climbing the steps, when Haines, who is sight impaired as well as deaf, lost her balance and started to fall.

"Ms. Haines reached out for a handrail but there were no handrails on the portion of the stairs to which all foot traffic from Secondary Deaf was funneled by the sidewalk," the suit says. "Instead of a handrail, Ms. Haines grabbed Ms. Roach's arm, and the two fell backwards down two concrete steps to the ground."

Roach also reached for a handrail, but in the absence of a rail fell to the pavement, which caused her leg to be broken in four places, including compound fractures.

Roach was taken to Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in Cumberland, Md., where she was diagnosed with a severe and complex bicondylar tibial plateau fracture.

According to the suit, Roach was confined to two weeks of bed rest, followed by physical therapy three times a week for two months.

She required a walker for six months, and was required to wear a leg brace for one year.

Roach claims she remains in constant pain and cannot walk properly or perform many ordinary daily tasks, as a foreign metal object is lodged in her leg permanently. In addition, being deaf has added some complications in her recovery, because she is not as easily able to convey her feelings and pain to others.

In the two-count suit, Roach seeks compensatory and punitive damages for pain and suffering, medical monitoring, mental and emotional anguish and lost income.

Attorney David Grunau is representing Roach. The case has been assigned to Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-2362

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