Elderly man wins lawsuit against the Del Mar racetrack

DEL MAR — A Vista jury on Feb. 8 found a 73-year-old man partially to blame for a fall at the Del Mar racetrack in which he broke his hip. After more than seven hours of deliberation, jurors found that Lawrence Miller and the 22nd Agricultural District were each 50 percent responsible for the injuries Miller sustained when he was hit by a door at the racetrack. The panel awarded Miller a total of $234,267 for medical expenses as well as injuries he suffered from the incident. However, because the jury divided the fault between both parties, Miller will only receive $117,133.50. Miller claimed he was knocked to the ground by a patron who had flung the heavy metal door open while he was gambling at the racetrack. Because there were no signs or markings on the ground, he said he didn’t know how far the door swung out. The jury absolved the unidentified patron who opened the door from having any responsibility in the incident. In a phone interview following the verdict, John Anderson, whose law firm represented Miller, said they believed Miller was not at fault for incident. He knew that the door was dangerous and he tried to walk to one side of it, he just didn’t realize the door would swing out that far, Anderson said. However, the jury believed he should have been more careful around this “dangerous door,” he said. Miller was struck by two inches of the door, Anderson said. When you get invited into a public place and they are making money from you, we argued you should not have to “tip toe around stuff” that you may not fully appreciate the danger of, the lawyer said. Anderson said the smoking patio where the accident occurred had originally been designed as emergency exit and landing area. Since the accident, glass panes have been placed in the door; however, that evidence was not admissible in court, he said. “A lot of people had been bumped by the door and this time it was a bump plus a catastrophe,” Anderson said. A call made to Bremer White, the law firm who represented the 22nd Agricultural District, was not immediately returned. However, during closing arguments, attorney Keith Bremer told jurors that Miller suffered from a litany of medical conditions, including vertigo and being legally disabled and blind, at the time of the incident. He said Miller lost his balance or got “spooked” when the door opened and just fell. Bremer told the panel more than 200,000 people pass through the door each year, which he said was no different than a high school gymnasium door, and that there have been no other recorded incidents. Bremer also questioned why Miller, who he said had difficulty walking, didn’t use the handicap access ramp located approximately 20 feet away. “Mr. Miller was not harmed by anything we did or didn’t do,” Bremer said. “We are absolutely sorry for this injury and accident, but we are not responsible.”

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