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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Dec. 7, 2023

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Vancouver to pay $500K to man hurt in fall on Waterfront Renaissance Trail

Arizona resident tripped on broken piece of sidewalk in July 2021

By , Columbian staff writer

An Arizona man who tripped and fell on a Vancouver trail in 2021 will receive $500,000 from the city in an injury settlement finalized Monday night.

The injury occurred on July 9, 2021, when Nils Robert Carlson of Sun City, Ariz., was walking on the Waterfront Renaissance Trail along the Columbia River.

On the east end of the trail, where the trail turns south from Southeast Columbia Way toward Beaches Restaurant and Bar, Carlson approached another pedestrian walking the opposite direction and moved to give them room, according to the plaintiff’s complaint.

Carlson then tripped on a piece of sidewalk that was broken and slightly elevated and fell to the ground, the complaint states. He sustained injuries that cost more than $500,000 to treat, according to the complaint.

“Mr. Carlson sustained life-threatening injuries to include extensive bilateral facial fractures, severe sinus and oral hemorrhaging, and respiratory failure,” the complaint states. “His injuries required two surgeries and an extensive stay in a rehabilitation clinic and use of a feeding tube for several weeks.”

In October last year, Carlson’s attorney delivered a tort claim to the city, seeking $975,000 for the damages, followed by a lawsuit earlier this year.

In March, the city denied any responsibility for the injury, stating that Carlson was responsible for his injuries.

“Plaintiff’s damages, if any, were caused in whole or in part by his own fault to reduce or bar recovery under contributory fault principles,” the city’s answer to the complaint states.

Repair, deterioration

According to the complaint, the city had known about the cracked sidewalk for two years. The city claims that the cracked sidewalk was repaired in 2019, but deteriorated again by 2021, according to Laura Shepard, communications director for the city.

“It was at some point between October 2019 and July 2021 that the condition deteriorated again into a more severe trip hazard that caused Mr. Carlson’s fall. The hazard was repaired after Mr. Carlson’s fall, and the entire panel is now scheduled to be replaced,” Shepard stated in an email.

The city will pay Carlson $500,000 in a settlement deal approved by the Vancouver City Council Monday night, though the city has not accepted responsibility for the incident.

“Although liability for the accident is disputed, staff recognizes that an adverse jury verdict could likely yield an award well in excess of $1 million due to the severity of Mr. Carlson’s injuries and medical expenses incurred,” the city memo states.

Gregory Price, Carlson’s lawyer, said Carlson has recovered and was pleased with the settlement.

“Despite some pretty serious injuries and being hospitalized for a lengthy period of time, (Carlson) has recovered quite well,” Price said. “(The settlement) was a number that we’d all be proud of, so he’s pleased with the resolution in place, and doesn’t have to go forward with the trial.”

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Columbian staff writer