Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

City Settles with Hoops Legend Akers in Fall

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

City Settles with Hoops Legend Akers in Fall

Article excerpt

The city of Charleston is settling a lawsuit with a West Virginia basketball legend who was severely injured three years ago at the Charleston Civic Center. City Council's Finance Committee voted at its meeting Monday night to approve the settlement between the city and Willie Akers, a former West Virginia University basketball player and well-known Logan County boys basketball coach, in the amount of $475,000.

The city must pay the first $300,000 in self-insured retention, and its liability insurer will pay the remainder.

In February 2013, Akers, then 75, attended a basketball game at the Civic Center. As he was exiting the arena after the game, Akers tripped and fell over a single unmarked step on the edge of the portable basketball court, which is slightly elevated from the ground floor.

He suffered a broken neck and nose and broke at least one rib in the fall, City Attorney Paul Ellis said.

His medical expenses after the accident and future care costs roughly $1 million, Ellis said.

Akers, who also is a Logan County commissioner, spent about five months in Atlanta after the accident, recovering and learning how to walk again.

Ellis added that such portable floors are "all over the country [and] used all the time as is."

The plaintiff's initial demand in restitution was about $7 million.

"We had a mediation, and through follow up discussions, we were able to get an agreement of $475,000 for the city to get out, Ellis said.

The floor's manufacturer, Conner Sports Flooring LLC., was also named in the lawsuit and still is involved in the case, he said.

As part of the settlement agreement, the Civic Center will place exciter tape around the vertical rise of the portable basketball court to prevent future accidents.

Ellis said the settlement was a good business decision for the city, because hiring outside counsel and other experts would cost just as much as the settlement amount if the case had gone to trial.

"The [city's] insurance carrier was very pleased with this proposed resolution, Ellis said.

The city also is moving forward with plans to revamp the Schoenbaum tennis courts at the Kanawha City Community Center. …

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