Jurors deliberated about an hour Friday afternoon without reaching a verdict in a personal injury case that pits comedian George Wallace against the Bellagio.
Wallace, 66, was performing at a private party at the Strip resort in 2007 when his Achilles tendon ruptured. He claimed his foot became entangled in loose electrical wires on the stage, but Bellagio attorney Paul Haire argued that Wallace had a pre-existing injury that led to a “spontaneous” rupture of his tendon.
“Now it’s Bellagio’s fault because it happened on their stage,” Haire said Friday during his closing argument.
Haire said the Bellagio did nothing to cause Wallace’s injury, and he asked jurors to award the comedian nothing.
Attorney Dominic Gentile, who represents Wallace, asked the jury to award his client $7 million for lost earnings, as well as unspecified damages for pain and suffering.
“This case is a before-and-after case,” Gentile told jurors. “In order to decide this case, you are going to need to look into who was George Wallace before his injury and who is he now and how has his life changed.”
The attorney said Wallace, a headliner at the Flamingo, was wrapping up the “best financial year of his life” when he was injured on Dec. 8, 2007.
“He clearly had momentum,” Gentile said.
After the injury, the lawyer said, Wallace had to turn down a role in the movie “The Longshots” and lost out on all the promotional opportunities that would have come with it. In addition, the comedian is now permanently disabled, Gentile said.
Bellagio stagehand Robert Cohen took pictures after the 2007 performance that showed loose cables coming out of two speakers.
Although he previously gave a deposition in the case, Cohen was on vacation in Venezuela and not available to testify at the trial, Gentile said.
“He testified in a way that wasn’t too good for the Bellagio,” the lawyer said. Gentile later told jurors, “It’s possible that they’re not real happy with Mr. Cohen taking those photographs.”
Gentile argued that Wallace had a right to assume the Bellagio would provide a safe stage for him.
But Haire argued that Wallace failed to prove he encountered the two speakers depicted in the photographs.
In addition, Haire said, Wallace attended a sound check earlier that day and “had every opportunity to identify any hazard that may have been on that stage.”
“He has an obligation to look out for himself like everybody else,” the lawyer said.
Even if the Bellagio did something wrong, Haire argued, Wallace’s negligence exceeds the resort’s.
The lawyer said Wallace makes about $46,000 a week, before expenses, and the comedian presented no evidence that he will lose income in the future.
Haire argued that Wallace “is back to his pre-accident state of health.”
“He’s got two movies coming out this year,” the lawyer said.
District Judge Ronald has asked jurors to resume their deliberations Monday morning.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.