Court orders Oahu club to pay paraplegic $6M in damages

Court orders Oahu club to pay paraplegic $6M in damages
Amar Sappal
Amar Sappal

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

Mid-Pacific Country Club has been ordered to pay millions to a former city Deputy Transportation Director after he fell on the course becoming a paraplegic.

More than $6 million – that's how much Circuit Court jurors awarded to the man considered by many as the modern father of rail transit in Honolulu. Amar Sappal is now paralyzed from the chest down. The court's decision comes despite finding Sappal and the Country Club were equally to blame.

After a day of golf, and an evening of dinner at drinks at the Mid-Pacific Country Club in June of 2009—79-year-old Amar Sappal walked out to the first tee around 11 o'clock at night to watch his son, a club member, hit one more ball.  That's when his attorneys say the force from sprinklers as they automatically turned on knocked him off balance – causing him to fall nearly 20 feet over the edge of the elevated tee box. Sappal fractured his spine and severed his spinal cord. Sappal's attorneys say conditions at the first tee were "an accident waiting to happen".

Jurors awarded Sappal nearly $12.5 million for his injuries, but because they found him 50% at fault for the fall, state law required them to reduce his award to $6.25 million.

"He requires 24-hour a day care, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That is extremely expensive to provide and this verdict will allow him to receive that care," said Sappal's Attorney, Michael Livingston.

Mid-Pacific's attorney Arthur Roeca said, "the matter is wouldn't comment about the verdict,  saying the matter is quote -- "still pending".  During the trial, the club denied any liability and questioned why Sappal was at the first tee so late at night. 

"It's certainly not typical or usual for people to be out in the area of the putting green or the first tee box at that time of night," said Livingston, before adding, "There was no posting anywhere at the Country Club that you shouldn't go out there at night."

According to Sappal's lawyers, Mid-Pacific has made no changes to the first tee and is not legally required to, despite jurors finding them partially responsible. 

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