Rajan Verma isn’t the first young man to ride a staircase banister.
Fresh from hearing Polica, a Minneapolis band making its debut in Buffalo, Verma was on his way out of the Tralf Music Hall last year when he decided to climb the second-floor banister.
After sliding down the first leg with another concertgoer, Verma hopped onto the second banister, this one taking him all the way to the ground floor.
But this time, the first-year medical resident lost his balance and fell. Only 28, he died a day later of his injuries.
“This is a tragedy,” New Jersey attorney Paul E. Paray said. “Clearly, no one wanted this to happen.”
But it was also a tragedy Verma’s family insists was not entirely his fault, and they’re suing the Tralf for at least $2.5 million.
The family, in federal court papers, alleges the music club attached a “sticky substance” to the banister in order to increase friction and deter visitors from sliding down it.
Unfortunately, the sticky substance also caused Verma to lose his balance and fall, the family says.
The wrongful death suit notes that the Tralf serves alcohol and alleges that its owner, Acquest Development, should have anticipated concertgoers would try to ride the banister.
The club also should have anticipated that people would fall and done more to safeguard the staircase, including totally enclosing it, the suit says.
Paray said Verma’s mother, Indu, is determined to prevent another accident at the Tralf and sees her lawsuit as the means to that end.
“After all is said and done, the goal is not to have another mother go through this situation,” Paray said.
Acquest’s lawyers declined to comment on the allegations of negligence, but it’s likely the club owner’s defense will include an assumption-of-risk defense. Under the law, defendants in negligence cases can argue that the plaintiffs suing them knew of a dangerous condition and willingly exposed themselves to it.
Verma’s family also is suing Infinity on Main, a tenant at the Tralf, and the company denied the allegations of negligence in court papers filed this week.
When Verma’s death became public in June of last year, there was no mention of his riding the banister the night of the Polica show. At the time, police described his death as accidental, and medical officials said only that his body was found at the bottom of stairs.
A native of New Jersey, Verma was a graduate of St. John’s University, where he received a degree in biology, and later the American University of Antigua medical school. He was in his first year of the University at Buffalo.
A fan of the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Nets and New Jersey Devils, Verma spoke both English and Punjabi, a language native to India and Pakistan, according to his Facebook page.
The Vermas’ lawsuit is not the first time a family has sued over a loved one lost after a banister ride.
In 2010, Megan Duskey, a special-education teacher in Chicago, slipped while trying to ride a banister at a Halloween costume party. She fell four floors and died.
Two years later, Duskey’s family sued the Chicago hotel where she fell, alleging that it allowed guests to drink too much without providing proper security. The lawsuit is believed to be still pending.