Carl was at the playground in Lamplight Village at Centennial Springs in Las Vegas when he sat down on the swing set to send a text message. The 42-pound crossbar fell from a height of eight feet and landed on Carl, crushing the left side of his skull.
Due to the injury, Carl immediately lost consciousness. When he woke up, he could no longer move his right arm because of the injury to the left side of his brain.
The injury derailed Carl’s high school education and his promising future as a musician and performer. As a result of his brain injury, Carl suffers from severe migraines, memory loss, insomnia, overwhelming anxiety and muscle spasms. He is also at an elevated risk of developing dementia.
Our investigation revealed that the homeowners’ association (HOA) was well aware that the swing set was dangerous. The same crossbar had fallen multiple times, including once after the HOA had welded it together. Moreover, the swing set manufacturer had advised the HOA that the swing set needed to be professionally inspected and maintained, and they were offered an inspection plan for only $150 a month.
Citing cost, the HOA refused to have the swing set inspected, even though a nominal increase in dues from the hundreds of homes on the property could have easily paid for the inspection plan. Moreover, we discovered that the HOA had spent over $50,000 on landscaping and $78,000 on maintenance and repairs that year alone, and it had over half a million dollars saved in the bank.
The HOA showed a remarkable lack of concern or remorse for their actions. When we brought the HOA president to the witness stand, he said they’d done everything they could – and that he didn’t see Carl’s injury making a difference in terms of how they would maintain their swing sets going forward.
The jury returned a historic $20 million verdict, which included $10 million in compensatory damages for Carl’s injury and another $10 million in punitive damage. The gross negligence and utter lack of remorse on the part of the HOA was likely the reason for the $10 million punitive portion.
The $10 million compensatory portion of the verdict was entirely for Carl’s pain and suffering, rather than for medical expenses or other losses. We believe that figure was entirely justified based on the severe, chronic pain and other symptoms that Carl will have to live with for the rest of his life.
Although the injury has taken away some things that Carl can never get back, the verdict will hopefully help him rebuild his life. Carl can still walk, talk and get around on his own. And while he no longer performs, he still tries to make music. He has a life, and the verdict will help to provide for his lifelong needs.
We also hope that this $20 million verdict sends a strong message to homeowners’ associations throughout Nevada and across the country – that they need to maintain their properties to keep children, their caretakers, and the general public safe.