After a two-day trial, a Charleston County jury on Feb. 23 awarded $225,000 to a man who broke his arm after falling down the stairs of the Queen Street Theatre while helping the building manager move furniture from one floor to the next.
Gedney Howe IV and Michael Monastra of Law Offices of Gedney Howe in Charleston represented the plaintiff, John Guilds. Howe said that Guilds didn’t work at the theatre but was doing a favor for the manager, who was a friend of his. The manager incorrectly strapped a large desk to a dolly, causing the desk to fall when they began guiding it downstairs, Howe said.
“The desk struck my client and knocked him down the stairs and upon landing, he broke his arm,” Howe said.
Howe said that Guilds’ medical bills were approximately $55,000 and that the injury required surgery and permanent hardware in Guilds’ arm. The injury slightly affected Guilds’ range of motion, but Howe said that his client has recovered well.
Court records show that the theatre made a $90,000 offer of judgment on Jan. 7, one which Howe said was unacceptable for a “textbook case of negligence.”
“That would’ve netted him some money, but that wasn’t the value of the case,” Howe said.
Howe said that the jury deliberated approximately four hours before awarding $300,000, the maximum amount allowed against a nonprofit organization in South Carolina. The award was reduced, however, as the jury found the plaintiff to be 25 percent negligent.
Morgan Templeton and David Nasrollahi of Wall Templeton in Charleston represented the theater. Neither attorney responded to a request for comment on the verdict.
Howe said that the defense initially approached the case as premises liability case before switching tactics.
“Then, they said that the whole thing never happened and that kind of ticked the jury off,” Howe said. “Then they fell on the sword of the charity … saying, ‘If you award something, it should be reasonable.’”
VERDICT REPORT — NEGLIGENCE
Amount: $225,000 (after 25 percent reduction due to allocation of fault)
Injuries alleged: Broken arm
Case name: John Dustin Guilds v. Footlight Players Inc.
Court: Charleston County Circuit Court
Case No.: 2019-CP-10-03195
Judge: Clifton Newman
Date of verdict: Feb. 23
Highest offer: $90,000 offer of judgment
Insurance carrier: Auto-Owners Insurance
Attorneys for plaintiff: Gedney Howe IV and Michael Monastra of Law Offices of Gedney M. Howe in Charleston
Attorneys for defendant: Morgan Templeton and David Nasrollahi of Wall Templeton in Charleston