Marcinkowski v. Golden Nugget involves a multi-story parking garage at the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas. Two vehicles broke through the guard rails and plunged to the ground, two- and four-stories below, killing or fatally injuring the vehicle occupants.
In 1987, the Golden Nugget completed construction of a six-story self-parking garage. Seventeen years later, on January 22, 2004, George and Maureen Yago's Toyota Camry broke through the 4th story guardrail and plunged to the ground, killing both occupants. According to plaintiff attorney Robert Halparyan, of The Gomez Law Firm, witnesses would testify that the Yagos' vehicle was driving slowly, below the posted 10 mph speed limit in the garage.
After investigating the incident, the Golden Nugget determined that the railings were adequate and complied with the 1985 building code, and an outside engineering firm, Lachsa Engineering, concurred after conducting a preliminary investigation.
Mr. Halparyan told the jury that The Golden Nugget was legally obligated by the City of Las Vegas to ensure a complete, independent engineering investigation, with a final report, which was was not done. Nor were any load or force calculations done, nor was any flex testing done.
Nine months later, on October 25, 2004, Ed Marcinkowski drove a rented Chevy Malibu through the guard rail on the second floor of the same parking garage, and plunged into the same alley, where he was severely and fatally injured. Again, said Mr. Halparyan, witnesses would testify that Mr. Halparyan was driving slowly.
"A property owner has a duty to make sure their property is safe..." Mr. Halparyan told the jury. "How could it happen twice?...Even after this second, similar incident, the Golden Nugget said that the guardrails were adequate."
Mr. Hamparyan told the jury that highly qualified NASA expert engineers would testify that the guard rails were dangerous, that the decedents' vehicles were traveling less than the posted speed limit when they struck the barriers, that the guard rails could not withstand even a one mile per hour collision, and that no structural engineering inspections had been done during 17 years of continuous use.
For the defense, Edward Lanigar reminded the jury that the first accident occurred 16 years and eight months after the city's certificate of occupancy had been issued. "There was no accident, no issue related to that parking structure, as far as that guard rail, in 16 years and eight months, of thousands and thousands and thousands of cars using that parking structure to park in."
"Immediately after the accident, Golden Nugget personnel inspected the garage itself. What they did was they went floor to floor. They looked at all the guard rail areas, or anything else where there might be something loose, might be something broken, and they came up with a negative. There was nothing that was broken or loose..."
"It uses the term 'preliminary' investigation," said Mr. Lanigar, but "there were no further requests for the Golden Nugget to have the engineering firm do anything further related to the investigation."
Further, Mr. Marcinkowski was familiar with the garage, and, said Mr. Lanigar, a witness driving immediately behind Mr. Marcinkowski saw him suddenly accelerate over a concrete wheel stop, into and through the garage wall. " Mr. Lanigar concluded his opening statement by suggesting that what the Golden Nugget did between the Yago accident and the Marcinkowski accident was reasonable.
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