Defense Prevails In $13.7M+ Trial Over Pedestrian’s Fall Into 6-Foot Construction Trench

Posted by David Siegel on Oct 14, 2022 2:20:35 PM

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CVN screenshot of defense attorney Leonard Fink delivering his closing argument

Las Vegas, NV - A Nevada state court jury returned a defense verdict on Tuesday in a trial stemming from a pedestrian’s fall into a six-foot-deep construction trench on a downtown Las Vegas street.

The jury reached a verdict the day after hearing closing arguments in a trial that began on September 28th. Plaintiff Joseph Serhal, a former casino employee, accused public utility company NV Energy and Blue Star Barricade and Traffic Control of failing to implement an adequate safety plan at a construction site in an intersection in downtown Las Vegas.

Serhal’s attorneys sought more than $13.7 million in damages, however the defendants successfully argued the construction site had sufficient signage to alert pedestrians, and that Serhal ignored verbal warnings from construction workers to avoid the area.

While the jury did find that Serhal’s claimed injuries were caused by his fall, on the question of liability they assigned him 60 percent responsibility and the defendants 40 percent, leaving him unable to recover any damages under Nevada law.

The trial was webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network, and the full proceedings, including all witness testimony, are available with a subscription to CVN’s online trial video library, which includes hundreds of civil jury trials from throughout the United States featuring many of the nation’a top plaintiff and defense trial attorneys.


Attorney Benjamin Cloward of the Richard Harris Law Firm, who represents Serhal, told CVN after the trial there was a “1000 percent chance” he would pursue an appeal.

“We’re going to appeal, and we’re going to seek other sanctions against the defense for improperly withholding critical evidence,” Cloward said. He explained that new evidence came to light on the eve of trial stemming from supposedly contradictory statements the workers on site made about the level of pedestrian traffic in the area, but it was too late to get that information before the jury.

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CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Benjamin Cloward delivering his closing argument

We were literally taking depositions in the middle of trial,” Cloward said, arguing that burden placed his team at an unfair advantage once the jury had been empaneled.

Attorneys Leonard Fink of Springel & Fink LLP and Michael Hall of Hall Jaffe & Clayton LLP, who represented the defendants, did not respond to a request for comment from CVN.

Cloward conceded the case posed an extremely challenging set of facts to overcome, particularly the allegation that Serhal aggressively rebuffed verbal warnings from the construction workers.

“I was absolutely scared to death of the case to begin with,” Cloward said, but he explained he became committed to taking the case to trial after getting to know Serhal and his family.

“They deserved an advocate that fought,” he said.

Cloward expressed confidence his motion for a new trial would be granted, and he indicated that in preparation for a retrial he would make more extensive use of focus groups and big data analysis than he did previously, noting that the liability split even without the evidence he wanted to present showed this was a winnable case. 

“This story is not over,” he said.

The trial took place before Judge Jessica Peterson.

The case is captioned Serhal v. Nevada Power Company, et al., case number A-16-733964-C in Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court.

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Topics: Nevada