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.
Attorneys for Carl Thompson, who was 15 years old at the time of the injury, argued that the Lamplight Village Homeowners' Association should have been inspecting and maintaining playground equipment that could be deadly if left unchecked.
The swing set collapsed in 2013. On Thursday, 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.
Attorneys for Lamplight Village have not yet returned phone calls from FOX5. If they choose to appeal, the case would go to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Lasso said he offered Lamplight Village multiple settlement offers (for "significantly" less than $20 million) in an effort to save his client from having to testify. He said the HOA refused to settle.
"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 next Monday night's HOA meeting. Some said they believed the conversations will be contentious.
"This will be one interesting meeting, don't you think?" wrote somebody on the Residents of Lamplight Village Facebook page. "Please, let's all be respectful of others and state our concerns calmly. Remember that board members are residents too and we're all in this together. See you there!"
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."
"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."
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.
"I never heard a thing until Feb. 15," another woman said.
A few attorneys 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.
Stay with FOX5 for continuing updates on this story.
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