A St. Clair County jury returned a verdict in favor of Shelby County property owners who were sued after a man renting the property fell from the balcony.
Jurors returned a defense verdict on April 25 in Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson’s courtroom.
Plaintiff Gary W. Deiters was represented at trial by Joel E. Brown of Peoria.
Defendants Matt Domescik and Carol Domescik were represented by Randall Mead of Springfield.
Deiters filed his complaint on April 12, 2016, alleging he rented a house from the defendants at a golf resort in Shelby County in June 2006. The vacation rental property, known as The Lodge at Oak Terrace, was rented to the general public for use as overnight lodging and entertainment.
At approximately 2 a.m. on June 5, 2006, Deiters claimed he was outside of the house on the deck talking to his mother on a cell phone. He was moving around on the balcony in an attempt to get a good cell signal when he allegedly made incidental contact with a wooden railing on the deck. Deiters claimed the railing gave way and he fell over eight feet to a concrete patio below, causing him to suffer injuries.
He alleged it was reasonably foreseeable to the defendants that their invitees would stand on the balcony and lean against the railing.
Deiters alleged that while the railing appeared safe and capable of supporting the weight of a person leaning against it, it was rotted and in disrepair.
The defendants denied liability, alleging Deiters was intoxicated. They claim his intoxication contributed to his fall or he fell because he wasn’t watching what he was doing and walked into the railing.
Deiters denied the defendants’ claims.
In a May 18, 2016, motion to strike, the defendants stated that St. Clair County is the third jurisdiction for this case.
“This case has a long history, first pending in Peoria County, then Shelby County, where it was voluntarily dismissed on the eve of trial, and now here in St. Clair County,” the motion stated.
In their motion, they sought to have new allegations stricken. They alleged that the St. Clair County action alleges certain after-the-fact activities for the defendants for the first time, including allegations that the railing was replaced with added structural support. They also sought to strike the plaintiff’s claim that the defendants burned the broken railing pieces at some unspecified time.
They argued that the alleged actions occurred after the plaintiff’s fall and could not have played any causative role in his injury.
In his Aug. 11, 2016, response, the plaintiff argued that in the Peoria County case, the defendants “denied knowledge that the railing at issue was loose, rotting or in disrepair and denied that the railing could be more sturdily constructed.”
“In a premises liability case, when the owner or possessor of the land denies that the condition at issue could be safer (or in this case, a more sturdily built railing), or offers unbelievable testimony as seen here, evidence of subsequent remedial measures is relevant and admissible to show feasibility of alternative construction or for purposes of impeachment,” the response stated.
The plaintiff argued that the new allegations show actual knowledge of defective rail parts and consciousness of guilt in destroying the evidence.
The defendants answered the complaint on Sept. 7, 2016, denying liability.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 16-L-206