A man whose wife died from complications following a fall at a casino will receive $75,000 after the jury shifted most of the fault to the decedent.
“It was an elderly woman who had significant other health issues,” said Gregg Kinney of HeplerBroom, who represented the defense. “According to our expert, she had a cascade of geriatric events that led to her death.”
In 2018, Louise Mierkowski visited Hollywood Casino in St. Louis County and slipped on a ramped transition area in the floating structure where two barges join.
Mierkowski, an 82-year-old with COPD, fractured her hip in the incident and died from pneumonia a few months later. Vuylsteke said that both sides agreed on a life expectancy of about three years had she not fallen.
The decedent was already using a cane before the accident and had fallen in the past couple of years.
“It was a tough case,” said plaintiff’s attorney Kenneth Vuylsteke.
Kinney contended that the design of the structure was approved by the state’s gaming commission and that Mierkowski, a regular, was familiar with its layout — including the dip where she fell. Vuylsteke, however, said a tournament taking place had pushed one of the craft lower in the water, making the transition area more uneven than normal.
Jurors awarded $500,000 in damages but allocated 85 percent of the fault to Mierkowski. Kinney felt it was a sympathetic verdict for the woman’s longtime husband.
“They wanted to give him something,” he said.
Vuylsteke said that he believed the jury saw the importance of the couple’s 62-year-long marriage and said that jurors took the matter seriously before returning a net award 15 times the pretrial offer to her spouse.
“I thought he was the finest gentleman I’ve ever represented in 42 years,” he said.
He said no appeal is planned.
Allocation of Fault: 85 to plaintiff, 15 percent to defendant. Net judgment of $75,000
Venue: St. Louis County Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 19SL-CC02396/July 14, 2022
Judge: Nancy Watkins McLaughlin
Plaintiffs’ Experts: Christopher E. Janson, St. Louis (safety professional); Daniel Swagerty, Dayton, Ohio (geriatrics)
Last Pretrial Demand: $295,000
Last Pretrial Offer: $5,000
Caption: Jerry Mierkowski v. St. Louis Gaming Ventures LLC dba Hollywood Casino St. Louis
Plaintiff’s Attorney: Kenneth Vuylsteke, Fox & Vuylsteke, Webster Groves
Defendant’s Attorney: Gregg Kinney, HeplerBroom, St. Louis