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Parents of High School Student Fatally Injured Reach Settlement

— November 23, 2017

Parents of High School Student Fatally Injured Reach Settlement

Joplin High School senior, Spencer Nicodemus, 18, was fatally injured by a falling basketball goal on March 2nd while volunteering in the Irving Elementary School gymnasium.  His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against several defendants.  The named defendants were Gared Holdings and GH Post Sale, the manufacturer of the basketball goal; Carroll Seating Co., which sold and distributed the equipment; Sapp Design Associates Architects, the architectural firm responsible for the Irving rebuild project, which was completed in 2014; and Universal Construction Co., the general contractor on the project.  The parties have reached a settlement, which was approved by Jasper County Circuit Judge David Mouton.  The terms are to remain confidential at the request of the defendants.

The lawsuit did not name the Joplin School District as a defendant.  It stated that “the use of the gymnasium and safe room by Joplin R-8 students, students from other schools and members of the public was reasonable and foreseeable.” It also stated the basketball goal was “used in a manner reasonably anticipated” prior to the fatality.

Parents of High School Student Fatally Injured Reach Settlement
Image Courtesy of Joplin Globe

The filing claimed all of the following: The basketball goal and its mounting assembly were in a “defective condition” at the time of sale; the instructions provided were “inconsistent and confusing; the “Safstop” backstop safety lock feature didn’t come with adequate instructions for connecting it to the backboard to prevent it from falling off the mast; the bottom of the mast was covered by a slip-on plastic part instead of a screw-on metal endcap; those who installed the equipment “lacked the adequate skills, experience, knowledge, and competency to be able to safely install (it); and, inspections of the equipment, were not performed or were performed inadequately.

It went on to state: “…A basketball goal designed, manufactured and sold by Gared Holdings LLC, distributed and agreed to be installed by Carroll Seating Co. Inc., (and) selected and inspected by Sapp Design Associates Architects and Universal Construction Co. Inc. fell from its installation upon Spencer Robert Nicodemus, inflicting injuries to his person, which caused substantial, conscious pain and suffering and eventually his death.”

“The main concern of the Nicodemus family is to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else, and they’re hopeful with filing this lawsuit that everybody involved is taking appropriate steps to prevent anything like this from happening again,” the family’s attorney, Scott Vorhees, said after the initial filing. “They want to make sure that whatever they do honors Spencer’s legacy.”

He continued, “Certainly the way this (goal) is designed and manufactured allows for it to be installed without the critical safety bolt, and its absence is not apparent to someone who might walk under it…There is a bolt that should have been installed; a hole would be drilled in the mast and a bolt installed to prevent (the goal falling) from being physically possible. The u-bolts that help hold the backboard to the mast were not tightened to the appropriate torque level.”

After the settlement was reached, Vorhees stated, “I’m glad we were able to get a resolution for the family. “I think this will help them heal and adjust the best they can.”


Wrongful-death lawsuit filed for JHS senior fatally injured by basketball goal

Nicodemus family, defendants reach settlement agreement in wrongful-death case

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