Nevada State Court Reaches Defense Verdict In Negligence Suit Brought Against Homeowner's Association For Back Injury Sustained When Picnic Table Flipped Over
On June 15, 2013, plaintiffs Richard Brown and his wife Elizabeth Brown were seated at a picnic table located at the Horse Palace at the Spring Creek Association Annual HOA barbeque and meeting. There were three or four people (including plaintiffs) seated on one side and one person on the other side of the picnic table. When that person got up and left, the table flipped over and Richard Brown was injured. His injuries included a compression fracture of the L1 vertebrae, a head injury, and facet mediated pain in all levels of the lumbar spine that allegedly required radio frequency ablations, bilaterally, at levels L2 through S1 for the remainder of plaintiff's life.
On June 15, 2015, plaintiffs filed an action against defendants, the Spring Creek Association and the Elko County School District, in the Nevada District Court for the County of Elko. Through the complaint, plaintiffs alleged that the association owned the picnic table in issue and that the school district had designed and manufactured the table. Plaintiffs claimed that there was a design and manufacturing defect in the table, and they claimed that it was in an obviously defective and dangerous condition. They asserted claims of negligence and negligence per se against the association, as well as claims of defective design, negligence, and negligence per se against the school district.
The defense causation expert, Erik C. Johnson, P.E., performed inspections of the area and confirmed that the ground was a flat and hard surface, the table was heavy and stable, and that it was not in a dangerous condition for use. In addition, his investigation revealed no prior incidents with the tables. Johnson's evaluation of the table design, however, led him to conclude that it had been defectively designed. According to information later provided by the association's legal counsel, this finding resulted in a settlement between the association and the manufacturer prior to trial.
The claims against the association only proceeded to a jury trial held by Judge Nancy Porter. Medical testimony included an expert opinion from Paton Whimple, D.O., regarding Mr. Brown's chronic conditions prior to the accident and conditions after the accident, including other falls sustained by him. Defense counsel successfully argued for the exclusion of medical evidence regarding Mr. Brown's future pain and suffering. The order granting the motion to exclude is attached below.
On May 5, 2017, the jury reached a defense verdict, finding in favor of the association and against plaintiff.
Plaintiffs were represented by Sean Claggett of The Claggett Law Firm in Los Vegas, NV and Barbara Gallagher of Kidwell and Gallagher in Elko, NV. The Association was represented by Loren S. Young and Kylee Gloeckner of Lincoln, Gustafson & Cercos in Las Vegas, NV.
Lexis Advance subscribers may view the complete summary here: Richard Brown and Elizabeth Brown v. Spring Creek Association and Elko County School District; 2017 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1464
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