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Theater said lighting was fine, didn’t cause moviegoer’s fall

Type:

Verdict-Defendant

State:

Texas

Venue:

Midland County

Court:

Midland County Court at Law No. 2

Injury Type(s):

leg-limp; knee-fracture, knee;
knee-fracture, patella;
other-physical therapy; other-hardware implanted; shoulder-rotator cuff, injury (tear);
surgeries/treatment-open reduction; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation

Case Type:

Slips, Trips & Falls – Falldown; Premises Liability – Stairs or Stairway, Dangerous Condition, Amusement Park/Place of Entertainment

Case Name:

Jay Hancock v. Regal Entertainment Group, individually and d/b/a Tall City Stadium 14 IMAX & RPX,
No. CC17907

Date:

March 28, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Jay Hancock (Male, 61 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Kevin Miller;
Miller & Bicklein;
San Antonio,
TX,
for
Jay Hancock ■ Matthew Olivarez;
Miller & Bicklein;
San Antonio,
TX,
for
Jay Hancock

Defendant(s):

Regal Entertainment Group

Defense Attorney(s):

Dick R. Holland;
Shafer, Davis, O’Leary & Stoker, Inc.;
Odessa,
TX,
for
Regal Entertainment Group ■ Eric S. Rich;
Shafer, Davis, O’Leary & Stoker, Inc.;
Odessa,
TX,
for
Regal Entertainment Group

Defendant Expert(s):

Matt Basford;
Lighting;
Knoxville,
TN called by:
Dick R. Holland, Eric S. Rich

Insurer(s):

Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

Facts:

In October 2014, plaintiff Jay Hancock, 61, a storage building salesman, went to Regal Tall City Stadium 14 IMAX & RPX in Midland, which is a theater complex owned by Regal Entertainment Group, with his employer (they were in town on a business trip). After buying tickets they entered the back of the theater and were walking down the steps in the aisle just as the feature was starting and the lights were dimming. Hancock fell and sustained knee and shoulder injuries. Hancock sued Regal Entertainment Group, individually and operating as Tall City Stadium 14 IMAX & RPX, on a theory of premises liability. Hancock and his employer testified that the overhead lighting, as well as lights that are on the aisle seats to show the steps, went from fully lit to fully dark almost instantaneously as they were walking down the steps. They said that Hancock fell because the darkness made it hard to see the landings interspersed among the steps. The defense denied any unreasonably dangerous condition, contending that the lights dimmed only slightly and that Hancock just overstepped. Another moviegoer, whose seat was near the incident, agreed with these contentions. The defense also noted that the theater complied with the applicable building code. Regal’s vice president of technical services, who was in charge of lighting and sound for the company’s theaters, testified as the defense expert. He said that the lighting system is automatic and controlled by digital cues in the film itself; that the overhead lighting is brought down from 100 percent to 50 percent over a period of a few seconds for the previews; and that, when the feature starts, the overhead lighting is reduced from 50 percent to 20 percent over a few seconds. Plus, the lights on the seats stay at a constant level of brightness, he said.

Injury:

Hancock was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. He sustained a fractured right patella and a torn right (dominant) rotator cuff. He was treated and released, but after returning home to San Antonio, he underwent open reduction and internal fixation of his knee. About four months later, the hardware was surgically removed, because it was causing pain. He also underwent physical therapy for his knee and shoulder. He testified that he regained full use of his shoulder, but that his knee was never the same. He could not get around very well and limped, he said. Hancock’s employer testified that Hancock’s job required standing, walking and selling at various trade shows, state fairs and other locations. He had known Hancock for about 25 years and said that, before the injury, Hancock was either his top salesman or one of his top two out of 30 salesmen. After the injury, he was near the bottom of the list, he said. Hancock sought a little more than $75,000 for past medical expenses and about $5,000 a month for lost earning capacity in the past and until retirement age. He also sought past and future physical pain and mental anguish and past and future physical impairment.

Result:

The jury rendered a defense verdict, finding that Regal’s negligence, if any, didn’t proximately cause the injuries. Defense counsel said the main obstacle to a pre-trial settlement was that the hospital would not agree to reduce its lien despite the efforts of plaintiff’s counsel.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Marvin Moore

Trial Length:

3
 days

Trial Deliberations:

4
 hours

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel. Plaintiff’s counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.