PSB Attorneys Seek Justice for Special Ed Student Injured in Fall from Bleachers

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Panish Shea & Boyle attorneys Rahul Ravipudi and Robert Glassman are seeking justice for a special education student whose life was forever changed after falling off the side of bleachers in the La Canada High School gymnasium. The La Canada School District knew the bleachers in that gym were in a dangerous condition but failed to do anything about it until it was too late.

Ethan Kalnins, a La Canada High School junior with Cerebral Palsy, was attending an assembly in the school’s gymnasium on May 20, 2016 when he fell off the side of school’s telescopic bleachers which had no guardrails. The 17-year-old special education student was lifted from the floor following the fall and placed into a wheelchair before being rushed by ambulance to Huntington Hospital where he underwent surgery for a left femur fracture. He spent five days in the hospital before being transferred to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for continued occupational and physical therapy. He remained in a wheelchair throughout the summer, trying to regain the strength to walk again, and returned to La Canada High School in the fall of 2016 where he required the use of a one-on-one aide and attended counseling with the school’s therapist to help him cope with the anxiety of returning to school.

Each year thousands of young children are seriously injured in falls from bleachers. According the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were an estimated 6,100 bleacher-associated injuries in 1999 that were a result of the person falling from, or through, bleachers, onto the surface below. Approximately 4,910 of these falls involved children. As a result, the CPSC created guidelines for retrofitting bleachers to help identify and eliminate those features that present a fall hazard.

Nearly five months after the July 2016 lawsuit was filed, Ethan’s attorney as well as a safety and engineering expert inspected the bleachers at La Canada High School and discovered they still lacked the necessary guardrails, which were actually located inside the gym—locked up in a back corner. “We saw the guardrails in the gym — they were locked up behind chains,” Mr. Glassman told the Pasadena Star-News. “When we asked the district representative at the deposition why they weren’t being used, he didn’t have a good answer, just, ‘It was our practice of not putting them on when students were sitting on the bleachers.’”

Shortly after the inspection, the District admitted that the bleachers were in a dangerous condition at the time of Ethan’s injury, that it had notice of the dangerous condition for a long enough time to have protected against it, and that the dangerous condition was a substantial factor in causing harm to Ethan. The District hired a company to retrofit the existing bleachers with new guardrails and the work was completed in August 2017.

As a result of his traumatic injury, Ethan continues to have both physical and emotional limitations and is expected to undergo additional surgeries as he gets older. Trial to determine Ethan’s harms and losses is scheduled to begin January 22, 2018 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Read the Los Angeles Times story here.

Read the Pasadena Star-News story here.