Chaisson v. Amador County Unified School District Reaches Resolution

Settlement: $1.75 million | Amador County | Chaisson v. Amador County Unified School District

On April 2, 2013, Matthew Chaisson fell from a four foot high landing connected to a mobile office building. The landing was missing a handrail in violation of local and state law. The office building stood in a maintenance yard connected to Argonaut High School in Amador County. The school district leased the building from Mobile Mini, Inc.

The fall caused significant injuries, resulting in multiple surgeries and several procedures involving steroid injections and radiofrequency ablations. Unfortunately, the pain returned, which left Mr. Chaisson with a diagnosis of chronic pain. His condition substantially interfered with his ability to enjoy his passion for the outdoors with his wife and three children, as well as his work as a carpenter.

From the outset, the school district defended this case by claiming that the absence of the handrail was open and obvious, and that Mr. Chaisson should have known of the condition prior to his fall. The district designated its Director of Maintenance and Operations as the Person Most Qualified to testify regarding safety procedures in the case. He testified that he had a general contractor's license but had no knowledge of building codes related to handrails. He also testified that he worked inside the mobile unit at the time of the incident and had walked past the condition at least 60 times, but had never noticed that the handrail was missing. He admitted that the landing was a dangerous condition prior to Mr. Chaisson's fall.

"This is a shining example of the consequences of government waste and poor management," said Joshua T. Edlow, attorney for the Chaisson family. "Our hope is that the Joint Powers Administration (which insures local and state public entities for such claims) will use this example to show local government officials how their inaction affects families and the community at large."

Mr. Chaisson and his family extend their deepest appreciation to the family, neighbors and friends who have offered support and encouragement through this difficult time. They look forward to moving on to the next chapter of their lives.