Guest falls onto slope at racquet club, claims negligence. Defense verdict. Orange County.


Tennis spectator trips and falls from patio onto slope.

The Case

  • Case Name: Rie Nakajima v. Russell D. Miller dba Anaheim Hills Racquet Club
  • Court and Case Number: Orange County Superior / 30-2015-00783508
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, July 18, 2016
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, April 20, 2015
  • Type of Case: Negligence, Premises Liability, Trip and Fall
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Frederick P. Horn
  • Plaintiffs:
    Rie Nakajima, 40, researcher at UCI.
  • Defendants:
    Russell D. Miller dba Anaheim Hills Racquet Club
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 10-2
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: A motion for JNOV and for a new trial on damages is scheduled for September 14, 2016.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Traut Firm by James Traut, Santa Ana.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Orland Law Group by James Orland, Manhattan Beach.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    John Scolaro, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Orange.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    John Gardiner, biomechanics, Laguna Hills.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Brad Avrit, PE, human factors, Marina del Rey.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendant Russell Miller is the owner of the Anaheim Hills Racquet Club. On September 13, 2014 plaintiff was a guest of a member of the club and was watching a tennis match. Plaintiff was injured when she fell while she attempted to throw a tennis ball that had landed on the patio. She fell off of the elevated patio onto a landscaped slope. She fractured her right elbow when she landed on a downhill slope.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contended that defendant was negligent per se because the patio should have had a slope as required by the California Building Code. All surface areas with a difference in elevation of 30 inches or greater require a guardrail. Eleven months after the incident, plaintiff's expert John Gardiner took photos and measurements and found that in various locations near where plaintiff fell, the elevation was more than 30 inches and therefore a guardrail was required. Plaintiff also contended that defendant was negligent in failing to have a safe condition for its guests and members.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant contended that he was not negligent and even if he was, it was not a substantial factor in causing plaintiff's injuries. Defendant also contended that plaintiff had contributory negligence and that her negligence was the sole factor for her injuries. Defendant contended that plaintiff could not prove what the elevation change was on the date of the incident and therefore defendant could not be negligent per se.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Fractured Right elbow, loss of use of arm, permanent scarring from surgery and permanent disability.

  • Need for future surgery and treatment for the injury.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $200,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $150,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiff asked the jury for an award of $650,000.

Below are photos of the patio plaintiff fell from (the corner with no railing).


Nakajima 1 small

Nakajima small 2