Honolulu must pay $3.6M in civil suit
By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Peter Boylan
An O'ahu judge yesterday ordered the city to pay a Southern California woman $3.6 million in damages following a trip and fall in Waikiki six years ago that her lawyer says has confined her to a wheelchair.
Tammie M. Stopp was walking on the tiled sidewalk at the corner of Kalakaua Avenue and Lewers Street about 1 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2002, when she moved to avoid an oncoming bicyclist.
She tripped and "fell in a hole in the tiled sidewalk that was created because several tile pieces were missing and broken," said the suit, filed in 2004.
The city should have known that "failing to replace the missing and broken tile pieces in the sidewalk causing the surface to be uneven or by failing to place a barrier over the hole" was dangerous, according to the suit.
She suffered severe ligament damage and underwent 12 surgeries as a result of complications from the fall, including having her ankle fused to her leg, according to her attorney, Michael J. Green.
She is confined to a wheelchair and takes 17 prescription pills a day to manage pain from the surgeries, Green said.
The city's Office of Corporation Counsel said they will appeal the judgment by Circuit Judge Sabrina S. McKenna.
"This is a case where a female visitor tripped and fell on a sidewalk in Waikiki and fractured the base of her little toe," the office said. "This accident happened in October 2002, and her toe had healed by June 2003. We are clearly disappointed by the jury's verdict, in a trip and fall case."
Green said Stopp's daughter had to drop out of nursing school to care for her mother, who requires 24-hour care.
"It sounds to me in this case the city was negligent," the attorney said after the judge ruled. "The woman made $15 an hour as a supervisor at Kinko's before she couldn't work anymore. Her (active) life is over.
"She never would have been at those doctors if there wasn't that hole in Kalakaua," Green said. "They (the city) could have settled this case easy. There was a minimal award given at arbitration before the surgeries. But after she was confined to the wheelchair following the surgeries they never made another offer. How about that arrogance."
Reach Peter Boylan at firstname.lastname@example.org.