Indoor rock-climbing facility blamed for plaintiff's injuries. Defense verdict. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Climber is seriously injured in fall; defense claims assumption of the risk.

The Case

  • Case Name: Yasaman Faal v. Boulderdash Indoor Rock Climbing
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / 18STCV02402
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, September 23, 2021
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, October 23, 2018
  • Type of Action: Premises Liability, Recreational Activities and Assumption of Risk
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Graciela Freixes
  • Plaintiffs:
    Yasaman Faal
  • Defendants:
    Boulderdash Indoor Rock Climbing
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 10 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 45 minutes
  • Jury Polls: 11-1
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defendant will file a post trial motion for expert fees and costs of roughly $60,000.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Office of Tal Rubin, PC  by Tal Rubin and Daniella Rubin, Woodland Hills.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Hosp Gilbert & Bergsten by Robert T. Bergsten and Mary M. Campo, Pasadena.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Tye Ouzounian, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Tarzana.

    Michael Wheeler, D.P.M., podiatry, Los Angeles.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    None.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Philip Rosescu, engineering.

    Rami Hashish, biomechanics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Bob Richards, indoor rock climbing safety.

    John Brault, biomechanics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On August 20, 2018 plaintiff, then 22 years old, fell from a "bouldering" wall at defendant Boulderdash Indoor Rock Climbing, which is located in Chatsworth. Plaintiff fell approximately 10 feet and fractured her tibia and fibula at the ankle.

    Plaintiff signed a liability waiver and an express assumption of risk document when she joined the facility.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff alleged that Boulderdash's flooring (aka fall attenuation system) was far below the industry standard (which required continuous, much deeper padding), and that Boulderdash was grossly negligent in its failure to upgrade its flooring to a deeper padded system after repeated similar incidents and severe injuries over the preceding years.

    Three former Boulderdash employees appeared at trial to testify that prior to the incident involving plaintiff, the employees had conversations among themselves that a better padding system was available in the market. None of the employees testified that they informed the owner of their conversations, and the owner testified he had no knowledge of those conversations.

    Furthermore, plaintiff alleged that defendant  may not have turned over past incident reports, which would have revealed a much more significant history of prior falls and significant injuries.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Assumption of the risk: Defendant Boulderdash claimed that plaintiff assumed the risk of falling and her injury; that it was not grossly negligent as its padded flooring and available crash mats met the standard of care despite the acknowledgement that roughly 70% of climbing gyms had switched to a deeper padded system by the time of plaintiff's accident.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff shattered her left tibia and fibula at the ankle. The open, comminuted, trimalleolar fracture required ambulance transport, immediate surgery (open reduction with external fixators), followed in two weeks by a second surgery (closed reduction with internal fixators).

    Plaintiff was wheelchair-bound for three months. It was undisputed that in the next five years, plaintiff will require two future surgeries to remove her hardware and to fuse her ankle given the significant arthritic changes that have already occurred. Plaintiff will then have 56 years of future pain, suffering and limited range of motion in her ankle.

    Plaintiff claimed that her future fusion surgery would result in a loss of 30% mobility and a lifetime of pain, which was not disputed by the defense.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Plaintiff's past medical bills totaled $39,384.43 after reductions
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: Her past lost earnings totaled $2,960.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: None.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $400,000 on 5/1/20
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $50,000 on 5/11/20

Additional Notes

Plaintiff requested $1.9 million from the jury. 

Defendant suggested an award of $177,344.43 if the jury found liability. Defendant did not dispute plaintiff's injuries, past or future treatment, or the reasonableness of plaintiff's past or future medical bills. 

Per plaintiff's counsel:

Plaintiff signed a waiver and an express assumption of risk document when she joined the facility. Over plaintiff’s strong objections, the judge made portions of the written waiver admissible, including some which read: ‘I acknowledge that participating in climbing activities involves risks… including paralysis or death…these risks may result in participants falling to the ground…which may cause fractures… I acknowledge that all participants are responsible for their own safety”.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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