SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA — On August 4, 2004, a “not so funny” funny thing happened to the Hartwig Family on their way home from the San Diego Padres’ game. That evening, Michelle and David Hartwig and their two young sons were leaving the Padres game in the downtown “Gas Lamp” redevelopment area when they were injured in a most bizarre accident. While walking back to their car after the game, the Hartwig Family crossed Market Street on 11th Avenue near a D.R. Horton construction site called “Park Boulevard West.” While passing the active construction site, an employee of Liberty 1 Security Company attempted to close an open fence gate after allowing a work vehicle to leave the construction site premises. Unbeknownst to the Hartwigs, the guards closing of the gate caused the attached fencing, which surrounded the entire perimeter of the construction site, to fall in a domino-like fashion. During the sequence of events, Michelle Hartwig and her youngest son were struck by the falling fence, and Michelle Hartwig was slammed to the ground and was pinned underneath the fence. In being slammed to the ground, Michelle Hartwig sustained a severely fractured ankle which required reparative surgery, including the insertion of permanent screws and other stabilizing hardware.
On behalf of the Hartwig Family, Berman & Riedel, LLP, brought suit against the responsible defendants claiming negligent erection, maintenance, and handling of the construction site perimeter fencing. Although defendants admitted that neither the plaintiffs nor any other pedestrian had made contact with the fence prior to its fall, defendants contended that the Hartwig Family and others had passed warning signs and barriers that had been set up, and thus knowingly walked in an area that was unsafe for pedestrian traffic. Plaintiffs disputed that any warning signs or barriers were present on the evening of the incident, a claim that was later corroborated by other witnesses to the incident.
In addition to claiming comparative fault on the part of plaintiffs for walking in an unsafe area, defendants disputed the nature and extent of Michelle Hartwig’s injuries, claiming that the severe ankle fracture she suffered healed well and was therefore not serious or debilitating. In support of their position, defendants argued that Michelle Hartwig’s medical specials totaled just over $35,000.00, and that Ms. Hartwig was able to return to work full-time as a 4th-grade teacher the following school year, where she was required to stand on her feet for prolonged periods of time as part of her job responsibilities.
After 16 months of contentious litigation and several sessions of mediation, defendants agreed to pay the Hartwig Family plaintiffs collective settlement in the sum amount of $800,000.00. Of the total $800,000.00 paid by defendants, the Hartwig’s elected to place a total of $50,000.00 towards the purchase of guaranteed structured annuity payments for their two minor sons, which will increase the total net amount that their young boys will eventually receive and will help fund their college educations. The Hartwig Family is happy and healthy today, and are relieved that the events of August 4, 2004, are forever behind them.