Tripped up – Elks settle personal injury lawsuit

April 2022 Posted in Community, News, Other

By Stephen Floyd

A $975,000 personal injury lawsuit against the Silverton Elks has been dismissed after the parties settled out of court two weeks before trial.

The suit was filed Dec. 31, 2019, by Salem resident Patty Wolford, 88, for an incident in 2018 when she fell and suffered serious injuries during an event at the Elks Lodge.

A trial was scheduled for April 26, but the court was notified that Wolford and the defendants had settled for an undisclosed sum. The suit was dismissed April 8.

Wolford had been seeking $225,000 in medical costs and $750,000 in punitive damages for an incident on Nov. 11, 2018, during a veterans appreciation dinner hosted at the lodge. Wolford attended the event with her husband, a military veteran and member of the Elks chapter in Keizer.

According to the suit, Wolford allegedly tripped over a flag stand on her way to join the line for dinner and struck the hardwood floor. She suffered a skull fracture, broken leg and broken arm, and has since endured memory problems and required the use of a walker.

Her lawsuit named the Elks as defendants as well as the Molalla VFW, who had been invited to the dinner to perform a flag ceremony. The suit said both parties were negligent in placing the flag stand in an area where guests could trip over it, and that the Elks were ultimately responsible for the safety of guests in their building.

The Elks and VFW both denied wrongdoing. Each defendant also accused the other of being directly responsible for placement of the flag stand. 

VFW filings added Wolford was responsible for her fall by failing to keep a proper lookout for obstructions. The VFW and Wolford settled out of court last year for an undisclosed sum. Claims against VFW were dismissed Nov. 8, 2021.

The Elks continued contesting Wolford’s claims and, on Jan. 6, requested the lawsuit be dismissed on the grounds Wolford had failed to provide direct evidence supporting her claims, including a deposition in which Wolford did not specifically recall tripping on a flag stand. They also re-asserted the VFW had been directly responsible for placement of the flag stand that night.

However, Judge Sean Armstrong said there remained enough evidence for a jury to draw reasonable conclusions about the Elks’ liability and the matter continued to trial. The case had proceeded as far as pre-trial motions and the drafting of jury instructions when Wolford and the Elks settled.

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