Homeowners consider suing HOA after it loses $20 million swing s - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU


Homeowners consider suing HOA after it loses $20 million swing set collapse lawsuit

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A jury reached a $20 million verdict after a teenager suffered severe brain injuries from a swing set collapsing on his head at Lamplight Village in northwest Las Vegas. (FOX5) A jury reached a $20 million verdict after a teenager suffered severe brain injuries from a swing set collapsing on his head at Lamplight Village in northwest Las Vegas. (FOX5)

A jury reached a $20 million verdict after a teenager suffered severe brain injuries from a swing set collapsing on his head at Lamplight Village in northwest Las Vegas. Homeowners said Tuesday they were considering suing the homeowners' association for failing to alert them of pending litigation or settlement offers that would affect their home values.

Attorneys for Carl Thompson, who was 15 years old at the time of the injury, argued that the Lamplight Village HOA should have been inspecting and maintaining playground equipment that could be deadly if left unchecked.

The swing set collapsed in 2013. Last week, the Lamplight Village playground in Centennial Hills had empty poles where the swings used to sit.

"He was playing basketball," attorney Al Lasso said. "He sat down on the swing set to send a text message. When he sat down, the 42-pound steel bar fell from a height of eight feet and crushed his skull."

Lasso and his co-counsel, Sean Claggett, said they discovered the swing sets had been proven to be faulty at least three times prior to the collapse. They said they do not believe anyone was hurt in those instances.

At trial, they told the jury Lamplight Village had the option to pay a $150 monthly maintenance fee, but declined.

"(Thompson) just happened to be the unlucky person that it fell on," Lasso said. "These injuries to the brain don't get any better. In fact, they get worse, and unfortunately that's the prognosis."

"He's trying to finish high school," Claggett said. "This injury caused him to not finish yet, so he's still trying to finish high school."

"He wants to go and he wants to better himself," Lasso added. "He's never given up."

Lasso and Claggett said the fact that Thompson survived was lucky. They said they believe a younger child would have died from the head trauma.

Court records show that Lamplight Village was offered multiple settlement offers, initially for less than a million dollars. Claggett said he wanted to settle in order to save his client from having to testify, but the HOA refused.

"What we do know is that all those homeowner's in that community are impacted by this verdict," Claggett said. "We were telling, begging, the defense in this case to please let the homeowner's know that we're making this offer, that they can be protected right now. We don't have to go through with this trial."

"In their eyes, they did nothing wrong," Lasso said.

"This isn't the only HOA that's behaving this way," Claggett said. "HOAs around the valley are doing the same exact thing. So the playground equipment isn't safe anywhere ... It could have been anybody."

Lamplight Village asks residents to stop discussing story

Homeowners were expected to address the issue at last Monday night's HOA meeting. Some said they believed the conversations will be contentious. The HOA meeting was eventually canceled and FOX5 was "banned" from the Facebook page.

Homeowners were asked to stop posting online about the situation "due to the media." 

Homeowners decided to hold a meeting anyway. FOX5 journalists were invited by concerned homeowners. Some were not happy FOX5 was in attendance, blaming the exclusive coverage of the story for "inciting a frenzy."

At the next HOA meeting, private security officers stood guard outside to prevent FOX5 from attending. Residents were asked to provide identification in order to be admitted. The line stretched out the door.

"Why are we hiding something that affects every homeowner in this community?" one woman asked. "That's what our problem is. We've been hiding. We've been doing things illegal for a long time, and that has caught up with us."

"I’m embarrassed to admit to them that I live here because of how people are treating one another," wrote Bryan O'Roarke on Facebook. "Especially that news segment Fox 5 put out on us this week. This place looked like a Jr High lunch room, not a community of adults." 

Some homeowners said the HOA lied to them, refusing to tell them about pending litigation for the past five years. They said they are now afraid of the possibility that they will lose their homes.

Jeremy Long, a homeowner who was not in attendance at the canceled meeting, said he found out about the situation online. He purchased his home last September.

"We didn't know anything was going on until we saw a FOX5 tweet about the whole situation, which is quite honestly a very disappointing way to find out news that's going on in your own neighborhood," Long said. "We just moved in. Are we going to lose our house? We have no idea."

Long said he feels bad for the teenager injured in the swing set collapse and agrees that the HOA should be required to honor the jury's verdict. 

"I think the way they handled it from beginning to end has been bush league," he said. "I don't believe that they outright lied to homeowners, but I'm 100 percent certain that they withheld information... If they lied or withheld information in the past, I have to believe that they're going to do it again."

Multiple attorneys have discussed the possibility of representing homeowners to sue the HOA in an effort to make sure the $20 million doesn't come out of residents' pocket books.

Michael McKelleb, an attorney who was recently hired to represent Lamplight Village, said the HOA will be appealing the jury's decision to the Nevada Supreme Court. He would not answer questions about why Lamplight Village turned down settlement offers or why homeowners were left out of the loop.

"At the very least, ethically, someone should have said something," Long said. "Unless we go and start digging, and asking questions -- asking tough questions of the people who were involved back then -- we're not going to get anywhere because they're not offering up any information on their own.

"It pisses you off a whole lot because you don't know what to do at the end of the day."

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