Pedestrian Who Fell Into 6-Foot-Deep Trench Accuses Power Company of Negligence as $1.7M+ Trial Opens

Posted by David Siegel on Sep 30, 2022 11:51:25 AM

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CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Benjamin Cloward delivering his opening statement

Las Vegas, NV - A Nevada state court jury heard opening statements Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by a former casino employee claiming a power company and their contractor’s alleged negligence caused him to fall into a six-foot deep trench and suffer serious injuries.

An attorney for plaintiff Joseph Serhal 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.

Benjamin Cloward of the Richard Harris Law Firm told jurors the companies’ supposed negligence will cost his client more than $1.7 million in past and future medical bills, but attorneys for the defendants argued the site was properly safeguarded, and that Serhal disregarded obvious warnings to avoid the area.

The full trial is being webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

During their opening statements attorneys detailed their differing versions of events surrounding Serhal’s fall on May 5, 2014. Serhal, who worked as a pit boss in the Golden Nugget casino at the time, was walking back to his car at around 1am following a shift.

Cloward told jurors the intersection where the fall occurred was clear when Serhal walked to the Golden Nugget earlier in the afternoon, but that during his shift construction workers dug a six-foot deep trench as part of project to relocate utility connections.

According to Cloward the defendants failed to set up adequate barriers around the site, and Serhal’s fall caused multiple injuries to his leg, back, neck and shoulder.

“They don’t put out barriers, they don’t put out cones, they don’t put out tape, they don’t put out pedestrian rails, they don’t put out anything to keep people from going into the area,” Cloward told the jury.

He said workers helped Serhal out of the trench, and that he drove himself home and resisted suggestions from family members that he seek immediately medical attention. He eventually did, and Cloward detailed to jurors how Serhal subsequently had to undergo separate surgeries on his neck, his shoulder and two on his lower back.

Cloward told jurors he would seek more than $1.7 million in past and future medical expenses for Serhal and unspecified damages for pain and suffering, describing how Serhal’s now chronic pain left him unable to work and cost him a job he passionately enjoyed. 

Representing NV Energy, attorney Leonard Fink of Springel & Fink LLP told jurors that Serhal was “wrongfully accusing” the defendants, and that they did utilize cones, signs and caution tape to warn pedestrians about the construction.

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CVN screenshot of defense attorney Leonard Fink delivering his opening statement

He claimed workers at the site verbally warned Serhal to avoid the area as he approached, but that Serhal supposedly responded, “F-off, what are you guys, cops?” and proceeded to allegedly duck under the caution tape.

Fink argued that the sparse medical records from the urgent care facility Serhal went to in the days immediately after the fall only detail injuries to his leg, and that his first complaints about back and neck pain don’t come until weeks later. Fink maintained injuries as severe as Serhal claims would cause pain requiring immediate medical attention.

“When somebody starts complaining two weeks later, there’s something else going on,” he said.

Representing Blue Star, Mike Hall of Hall Jaffe & Clayton LLP detailed the traffic control plan they provided to NV Energy for the project, and he argued it was fully consistent with industry standard practices for similar construction zones.

“Blue Star did nothing wrong,” he said.

Subscribers to CVN's online trial video library, which includes hundreds of civil trials from across the United States, can also watch Cloward and Fink arguing before Las Vegas juries in previous cases. 

In August Cloward secured an $8 million verdict against FedEx in a truck collision case, and in March Fink obtained a defense verdict in another trial involving a supposedly inadequate traffic safety plan at a construction site. 

The current trial before Judge Jessica Peterson is expected to take roughly two weeks to complete, and CVN’s gavel-to-gavel coverage will continue for the duration of the proceedings.

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: Negligence, Nevada