Kansas officials settle Fort Dodge door-stop lawsuit for $100,000

Tim Carpenter/The Capital-Journal Gov. Sam Brownback, left, Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, Don Hineman, R-Dighton, and Ron Ryckman Jr., R-Olathe, attend State Finance Council meeting.

Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a woman injured after tripping over a flower pot holding open a door at the Kansas Soldiers’ Home in southwest Kansas.

 

Members of the State Finance Council voted to approve a deal resulting from negotiations in November between the Kansas attorney general’s office and attorneys for plaintiff Kathryn Schmidt, who was injured in the fall. She had sued the state of Kansas, the Kansas Commission on Veterans’ Affairs, the Kansas Soldiers’ Home and an individual, Manford Koehn.

Craig Kennedy, a Wichita attorney who conducted a settlement conference on the case, said in a court document the agreement was possible “because of the willingness of the parties and their counsel to compromise their respective positions.”

In March 2017, a Hutchinson law firm filed suit in Ford County District Court alleging that on May 12, 2015, employees of the Kansas Soldiers’ Home used a flower pot to prop open an exterior door at a clothing store on the medical and residential campus at Fort Dodge.

Schmidt’s attorneys said the pot was made of concrete the same color as the adjacent sidewalk. The unconventional door stop blended into the background and exposed pedestrians to danger, her attorneys said.

“Unlike a door stopper or wedge,” the lawsuit said, “the flower pot created a dangerous trip hazard for customers and others entering and exiting the store. Kathryn Schmidt was exiting the store and tripped over the flower pot and fell.”

The plaintiff’s attorneys claimed the incident was caused by negligence and sought compensation in excess of $75,000 for medical expenses and other damages.

Shon Qualseth, an assistant attorney general for Kansas, initially urged the district court to find in favor of the defendants and compel Schmidt to pay all costs of the proceedings.

The State Finance Council voted last Thursday to approve the settlement following an executive session at the Capitol attended by Brownback and a bipartisan contingent of House and Senate leaders. Action by the finance council clears the way for dismissal of the lawsuit.

The Kansas Soldiers’ Home, located about 5 miles east of Dodge City, is operated by the state Commission on Veterans Affairs.

 

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